Recently the New York Red Bulls had been working with Special Olympics New Jersey to coach those enrolled in their summer camp, Camp Shiver, soccer skills. The fruit of that work took place tonight before the Red Bulls played the Philadelphia Union. The two MLS sides hosted a Special Olympics Unified Match, with the players donning the jersey of their respective teams. Despite the 4-2 scoreline in favor of the side wearing Union jerseys, the play on the field showed a few things, skill, unselfishness, and sportsmanship.
The two teams played a 5 a side match with two 15 minute halves. The Union side took the lead into halftime up 3-0. They made it 4-0 within a minute of the opening of the second half, but the Red Bulls side made a game of it, scoring two goals, and almost nicking a third back right before the final whistle. The goals came from a few angles, with one goal literally going over a player's shoulder as that was the only way to score. The pinnacle moment of the match didn't have to do with the scoreline though.
In the second half, a Union player accidentally kicked the ball into the face of a Red Bulls player. Before anything else happened, that player ran up to his counterpart on the other side and the two exchanged a high five, showing that the result on the field really took back seat to the opportunity to play. Those who were in the stadium early also got in on the act. A drum from the River End was heard every once a while, and both teams received a standing ovation when they departed the field.
It was a truly special moment for those both playing and watching.