By JOEY SAMUEL
CHESTER, Pa. — Carlos Valdes and Michael Farfan are used to playing at PPL Park, but they had never played in a game quite like last night, when each of them made their All-Star debuts in front of their home crowd.
When Aurelien Collin went down with a fractured cheekbone in the 36th minute, All-Star coach Ben Olsen called upon Valdes to fill in and play the rest of the match. The Colombian was up to the task, and his strong defensive play throughout the game showed why he was given a spot on the All-Star team in the first place.
"You could make a case that he could have started," said Olsen. "He’s as good as any centerback in the league."
While Valdes didn't get to start the match, he still put on a solid performance in place of Collin. In fact, Valdes' abilities could perhaps have been used a few minutes earlier. Collin took a knock around the 30th minute and had to leave the field. Valdes was ready to come in at that point, but instead Collin re-entered the game when Chelsea earned a corner kick in the 32nd minute. It was on that set piece that John Terry headed home to equalize the match, and Collin looked dazed on the play. Valdes came on moments later.
"It’s awesome playing with Henry, Beckham, Donovan and the rest of the teammates," Valdes said after the game. "It’s amazing. One of the best moments of my life. I'm really proud to be part of this game, of this great family. I'm really excited. I just want to say thanks to all the fans for their support."
Also making his All-Star debut on Wednesday night was midfielder Michael Farfan, who was rewarded for his strong play in his second year with a late selection to the roster. He came on in the 74th minute, replacing David Beckham, and drew a louder ovation than Beckham did.
"It was exciting. It’s something that we dream of as kids, to play against the European champions," said Farfan. "It’s an amazing feeling, especially to do it at home in front of the Sons of Ben, and all of our friends and family."
While Farfan may have dreamed of playing in the All-Star Game at some point, he probably never imagined that he would ever replace Beckham as a substitute, especially at PPL Park.
"I didn’t," said Farfan. "I never thought that would happen, but I'm excited that it did. I was just really happy to be out there with everyone. It's something that I'll remember for the rest of my life. To have all of these fans cheering, it was an amazing experience."
Union head coach John Hackworth was involved as well, serving as Olsen's assistant coach for the All-Star Game. He had high praise for Farfan.
"Michael, I can’t say enough about that kid," said John Hackworth. "He just comes in and he’s class, you know? His touch is good, he weights his passes good, he fits right in. He doesn't look out of place at all. I’m really happy for him."
Valdes, Farfan, Hackworth, and the rest of the Philadelphia Union now turn their attention back to league play, which they continue on Sunday when they host the New England Revolution at PPL Park.