Young soccer fan whose emotional Christmas video went viral got to meet Union star Keegan Rosenberry

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Dave Zeitlin

Young soccer fan whose emotional Christmas video went viral got to meet Union star Keegan Rosenberry

In a couple of days, Keegan Rosenberry will report to his first U.S. national team camp.

Ethan Chambers, a 9-year-old from Pottstown, got to congratulate the Philadelphia Union right back in person. And tour around the Union’s training facility with him. And play a game of pool against him.

“You don’t get to play pool with a famous soccer player all the time!” Ethan gushed to reporters at the Power Training Complex on Friday.

You certainly don’t. But then again, this 9-year-old has been enjoying a lot of new things these days.

It all began on Christmas when his parents, Shawn and Tanya, surprised him with Union season tickets and a Rosenberry autograph. Shawn then posted Ethan’s emotional response on Twitter (not an avid social media user, he enlisted help of some younger people), at which point his phone practically buzzed out of his pocket.

As some news outlets caught wind of the story, so did the Union, who reached out to the Chambers family about coming to Chester to meet Rosenberry, who absolutely loved Ethan’s reaction when he first saw it on Twitter.

“I think I was just as excited as Ethan was,” said Rosenberry, the 2016 MLS Rookie of the Year runner-up. “What makes our job so special is playing for people like that, playing for people that love the team so much. That’s what makes the home games special. And it’s anybody that has that passion but especially the kids. To see how emotional he was and how happy he was to be here today was incredible for me.”

Ethan was a little shy at first as Rosenberry greeted the family and told him, “I’ve never seen someone so excited to get tickets.” But he warmed up as he received his own jersey and toured the building, checking out the locker room (the carpet was soft enough to his liking), the pool (both the swimming and billiards variety) and the film room (“They even have a movie theater?!” Ethan exclaimed). By the time they got back to the weight room, Ethan was smiling and a seasoned pro at giving interviews to both the TV and print media, explaining why he loves soccer so much.

“I tried the other sports and they just didn’t work for me,” he said. “But with this, I understand it and I love it.”

Ethan went to his first Union game in June — a 3-2 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps — with his Pottsgrove Force club team. Loving the view of the Delaware River and how close the seats seemed to the field, he’s been hooked ever since.

“We’re all huge sports fans but I can honestly say I was never a soccer fan until he started playing because I didn’t understand it,” Shawn said. “We watch all the [Philly] teams and this is the only team where he’s like, ‘Can we watch the Union tonight?’”

Shawn added that the “accessibility” of Union players sticking around to sign autographs after the game is a big reason why the team is catching on with a younger generation — and why the sport should continue to grow. Friday’s tour, of course, was another example of that kind of accessibility.

“With the big teams [in Philly], you don’t necessarily think about soccer,” he said. “But it’s all we talk about in our house.”

They’ll have a lot more to talk about in their house now after getting an up-close look at where the team trains, with the Union’s brightest young star serving as their personal tour guide. Here are some photos from what turned out to be a nice little event in Chester:

Catching up on some big Eagles stories from Week 1 of OTAs

Catching up on some big Eagles stories from Week 1 of OTAs

It was great to be back at the NovaCare Complex on Tuesday and take in an Eagles practice, even if it was non-contact. There’s a lot of buzz around the team right now, and minimal time to cover everything, so let’s dive into some of the storylines that slipped through the cracks during the first week of OTAs.

The thought that the Eagles are secretly fuming over Carson Wentz seeing a private quarterback guru seems ridiculous. It’s not uncommon for NFL players -- even quarterbacks -- to seek council during the offseason. Tom Brady did it, and I don’t recall any drama ever unfolding with the Patriots as a result of that. Perhaps some mild concern has been expressed behind closed doors, as Wentz’s mechanics are a constant work in progress, and Eagles coaches surely prefer he learn the methods they’re teaching. Then again, I highly doubt somebody earned the title of “quarterback guru” if they’re not passing along standard NFL techniques. It was an even bigger reach to suggest Doug Pederson’s displeasure over this development was on display during his press conference on Tuesday.

I’m not one to place a whole lot of stock into OTAs, but seeing rookie cornerback Rasul Douglas on the field with the first-team defense in nickel situations is a promising sign. He didn’t look out of place, either. At 6-foot-2, 209 pounds, Douglas matched up well with Alshon Jeffery. I could see his size being an asset against NFC East rivals like Dez Bryant, Brandon Marshall and Terrelle Pryor -- bigger receivers the Eagles will face two times each this season. While performance in OTAs typically means squat, it was about this time last year when Jalen Mills began ascending the depth chart, and he wound up playing quite a bit. It’s early, but given the situation at cornerback, not at all far-fetched to anticipate a similar role coming for Douglas.

While I agree with the premise Nelson Agholor could improve and go on to have a respectable NFL career, Eagles teammate Brandon Graham isn’t really the most relatable example. It’s time for the seemingly annual reminder that Graham’s progression was derailed by a major knee injury as a rookie. He essentially missed the following season, and was buried on the depth chart upon returning. A year later, the defense switched to a 3-4, which was an adjustment as well. Yet, time and time again, Graham would perform at a high level whenever he got into games, finally earning his starting job back in 2015. Agholor has been a starter the past two seasons, and aside from a high ankle sprain his rookie year, he’s been relatively healthy. What’s the excuse here? Agholor may be a late bloomer, but Graham’s experience breaking into the league was vastly different.

The revelation that Vinny Curry was affected by a knee injury last season can be taken one of two ways. Some may see it as an excuse for his modest performance after signing a massive contract extension a year ago, which currently looks like an expensive mistake. I prefer to view the injury news as another reason to give Curry a slight pass. We’ve all seen what an explosive pass rusher he could be, racking up 9.0 sacks in 2014 while playing only one-third of the Eagles’ defensive snaps. If he was hampered by the knee -- Curry admitted wearing a brace for much of the season -- that could certainly help explain why he often seemed invisible. Even if he simply wasn’t very good, Curry has another opportunity to prove himself in 2017. Might as well take the optimistic outlook.

Mike Schmidt shows off new sunscreen dispensers at Citizens Bank Park

Mike Schmidt shows off new sunscreen dispensers at Citizens Bank Park

Phillies legend Mike Schmidt is teaming up with Mayor Kenney, the city of Philadelphia, Independence Blue Cross, and the Richard David Kann Melanoma Foundation to help protect you from the sun's harmful rays.

As part of the Sun Smart America initiative, the Phillies will place 12 sunscreen dispensers around Citizens Bank Park in addition to 6 dispensers located elsewhere around the city. 

This Sunday, May 28th, is also Melanoma Awareness Day at the ballpark when the Phillies host the Cincinnati Reds at 1:35. 

Schmidt will throw out the ceremonial first pitch and try to promote the importance of protecting one's skin from the sun. He knows from a trying personal experience.

"The sun almost took my life," Schmidt told the Palm Beach Post after his battle with skin cancer. He spent months going through heavy radiation and chemotherapy and is currently cancer free.

The sunscreen dispensers at the ballpark can be found at all entry gates as well as on the Rooftop, Pavillion, and Terrace levels beginning on Sunday.