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:

The Sixers are for real (and Sam Hinkie had nothing to do with it)

The Sixers are for real (and Sam Hinkie had nothing to do with it)

The biggest sports story in town in the Sixers, winners of 4 of 5 and an exhilarating team on the floor, led by a superstar player who seems to actually get us as a fan base. And to think, all it took to bring us to this point was getting rid of Sam Hinkie.

Look at what a dark place the Sixers were in a year ago. They were in last place, with the league’s worst roster and no hope for the future except for a bunch of ill-defined future draft picks. And they were led by a general manager with absolutely zero interest in winning, explaining himself, or (worst of all) appearing on the WIP Morning Show. 

But now, there’s hope. Joel Embiid is the real deal. The supporting cast is rapidly improving, with guys like T.J. McConnell, Robert Covington and Dario Saric looking like valuable supporting players, and Ben Simmons joining them very soon. 

I know the Hinkie apologists are going to say these improvements are because of him and that he deserves credit -- please. To credit Hinkie with drafting Joel Embiid is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of in all my years of watching Philadelphia sports. We all know Hinkie wanted Andrew Wiggins -- therefore, he gets no credit for drafting Embiid. And as Bob Brookover pointed out last week, Embiid is a Sixer because of luck.  

Ben Simmons, of course, was drafted by Bryan Colangelo, who also acquired the best Sixer since Thaddeus Young, Ersan Ilyasova. And if the two first-round picks next year turn out to be stars, Colangelo will get credit for those, too

Hinkie did things like draft three centers in a  row, take Jahlil Okafor over Kristaps Porzingis, trade valuable players like Michael Carter-Williams and K.J. McDaniels for nothing, and sign no veterans at all for three years. 

Joel Embiid is a winner, Sam Hinkie is a loser, and that’s all there is to it.  

In other Sixers news, it was nice to see Simmons warming up on the court last week against Boston- when Embiid did that, it meant he was 16-18 months away from returning to action. In the last two years, the Sixers lead the league in pre-game social media posts featuring players who aren’t active for that night’s game. 

And speaking of records, congrats to Nerlens Noel for breaking Shane Victorino’s longstanding local athlete record for use of “you know” in a single interview, when he talked to Woj last week

Other Philly sports takes: 

The Cowboys’ loss to the Packers on Sunday proves two things: Dak Prescott is a fraud, and the Cowboys were never very good anyway. The only reason they went 13-3 was the easy schedule. 

Can you believe Allen Iverson getting photographed in a Cowboys jersey? Doesn’t he know the rules? If you play in Philly, you must root for every one of the city’s teams, regardless of circumstance, for the rest of your life. 

Even so, shame on the Knicks’ Derrick Rose for no-showing a game. If you want to be a legendary NBA guard, you’re supposed to skip PRACTICES, not games. Not a game. 

Angelo made a good point: Embiid is so perfect as a Philadelphia athlete that it makes me notice how much Carson Wentz isn’t. Hunting trips? Shotgun gifts? Getting locked in a gas station bathroom? That’s just not cutting it. Carson, immediately, needs to start drinking Shirley Temples, imitating pro wrestler entrances, and insulting porn stars on Instagram, or else I fear he won’t last in this town. 

Another good column by Marcus Hayes -- the Eagles must sacrifice multiple draft picks to trade up for wide receiver Mike Williams. Whatever it takes. 

Come on Eagles- no room on the staff for either of Buddy’s sons? How about both? 

Follow @FakeWIPCaller on Twitter. 

Joel Embiid now as dominant as Henry Sims

Joel Embiid now as dominant as Henry Sims

There are seemingly countless metrics one can use to detail Joel Embiid's supremacy as a Sixer, but perhaps no stats more clearly tell the story of how indefatigable the rookie has been this season than those of his free-throw shooting. Despite ranking just eighth on the team in total minutes, he's already gotten to the line 215 times this season and made 169 of them, about 250% more than the second-most made FTs on the team (Ersan Ilyasova, 65). What's more, his seven games with ten or more free throws attempted is already more than Thaddeus Young (six), Evan Turner (three) or Jrue Holiday (zero) ever had as a Liberty Baller. 

But yesterday against the Bucks saw JoJo hit a new level with his foul drawing. Despite essentially being shut down by the Bucks in the first half -- I can't remember if he even had a single bucket at the break -- The Process eventually imposed his will in Milwaukee in a major way, parading to the line in the second half, ending with 22 points (as well as 12 rebounds and five blocks) on 4-9 shooting, getting to the line an astounding 18 times. 

Who was the last Sixers giant to accomplish such a feat, you might wonder? Well... 

Yes, it's been an impressive season for our double-redshirt rookie, and every game he seems to add another immortal name to his list of historical analogues. But not until now could we afford to mention him alongside the great Henry "Lickface" Sims, two-year Process legend whose 18 trips to the free-throw line on April 4, 2014 totally helped us win that random late-season game against the then-rebuilding Boston Celtics. As impossible as it once seemed, it now appears that soon, Embiid's folk herodom will be as self-evident and undeniable to the Sons of Sam as that of Hammerin' Hank himself. 

Get this guy to the All-Star team already.