Sons of Ben

The Sons of Ben is a 501(c) (3) Pennsylvania based non-profit, membership organization.

The Sons of Ben, founded in January 2007, exists to support and develop the Delaware Valley soccer community. Through active, grassroots support, the Sons of Ben helped establish the momentum leading to the creation of the Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer (MLS) and the Philadelphia Independence of the Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) league. In forging a relationship with Chester City, Delaware County and Pennsylvania State political leaders along with Major League Soccer, the vocal support of the group directly influenced the decision to award Philadelphia with an MLS franchise.

The Sons of Ben have provided a social outlet for soccer supporters to share common interests and be part of a larger community of sports fans in the 4th largest American media market. The organization has grown to include over 5,000 members throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and around the world. The Sons of Ben have also grown to oversee the Delaware Valley Infantry, a US Soccer supporters group based in Philadelphia region, and the Daughters of Betsy, a Philadelphia Independence (WPS) supporters group.
Charitable and philanthropic efforts have been central to the Sons of Ben since its founding, as evidenced by annual initiatives supporting the Bernardine Center in Chester, PA through its Help Kick Hunger campaign and ongoing efforts to support various other organizations close to the Delaware Valley soccer community.

The coming months will start a new chapter in the organizations noteworthy story with many historical events marking the arrival of the Philadelphia Union, Philadelphia Independence and the Sons of Ben into the national spotlight.

The Brad Knighton Interview

Photo: Paul Rudderow (Flickr)

Brad was kind enough to take time out of his off season schedule to answer some questions about his past and plans for the future. Matt: What was it like being selected in the expansion draft by the Union?

Brad: It was really exciting! I knew there would be a possibility that I could have been taken after not being protected by the Revs. There was a joke between my wife and I about possibly coming to Philadelphia when we heard they were getting an expansion team a couple years back. Most of her family is from this area, so it is nice to have family around all the time. In New England we didn’t have any family around. It’s exciting to be a part of Philly’s Inaugural team.

MM: What were the main differences you saw in the change from playing in college to coming to the Pros?

BK: The speed of play is a lot faster, the players are better technically, and it is a lot more physical.

MM: Is there a significant difference in the practices and techniques installed by Peter Nowak and Rob Vartughian compared to those by Steve Nicol and Remi Roy?

BK: There really is not that much of a difference. In New England, the field players worked a lot on passing and possession and finishing throughout the week, while the goalkeepers did a lot of repetition of working on footwork, positioning, and handling. Most of that is very similar to what we do here in Philly now. The coaching staff here with the Union does a great job of getting us video of the opponents for that week so we are able to scout and see tendencies of teams and players.

MM: What was it like training with Matt Reis and Doug Warren?

BK: It was awesome! Having the privilege to being able to train with Matt and Doug my first two years really helped me grow as a goalkeeper. They helped me learn how to be a good pro. I constantly asked them questions and advice on certain situations and really listened on what they had to say. There were a lot of times for a good laugh, especially with Matt, but when it came down to being serious and ready to train, there is no one better than Matt.

MM: What is your relationship like with Chris Seitz?

BK: Chris and I have a good relationship on and off the field. We are both very young, and coming into this year, both were a bit inexperienced. I think we had played close to the same amount of MLS games in 3 years before both of us got to Philly, so from the beginning of preseason we were in it together. We were roommates the first 2 months of preseason and we really got to know each other well, and it has continued throughout this year. Our lockers are right next to each other, so there are a lot of times where we can just chat about soccer, life and the most important Fantasy Football!

MM: What was it like training with Middleborough and Valencia? What differences in training techniques do you see in the MLS compared to the EPL and La Liga?

BK: It was fantastic! I went over to Middlesborough after my freshman year in college to train for a couple of weeks before the start of our preseason and man was it an eye opening experience. I was with Boro during their preseason, so we were having 2 sessions a day, getting there at 8 am for breakfast, training for two hours, grabbing a bite to eat for lunch, 2 hours to rest before another two hour session in the afternoon. It was demanding, but being able to play with some of the best players in the world was such a great experience.

The training was similar in Valencia as well. La Liga is a lot more technical. The players are very good on the ball, and their decision making when they have it, is incredible. They are able to read the game so well. I was very impressed. I went over to Spain with Adam Cristman, who plays for DC United and previously with The New England Revolution. We grew up playing soccer against each other since we were 10, and his family moved to Richmond and we ended up playing on the same club soccer team and high school team. We were in Spain for 5 weeks. We rented an apartment in downtown Valencia, so it was really amazing to live in a foreign country and see a lot of different things.

MM: You have played in some big games in your career, including an upset win over #5 Duke in your senior year in college. Can you explain what it was like going into that game as an underdog and shutting them down?

BK: It was a great win for our program at UNCW. We went to Duke with nothing to lose, and everything to gain. They had an incredible record at home against non-conference opponents. I think it was a 45 game unbeaten streak or something. We went in there just trying to get a result and we got a great first goal, and were able to shut them down for the rest of the game and walked away winning 1-0. It had to be one of my best memories in my 4 years there.

MM: Do you stay in touch with Aidan Heaney? Do you look at him as mentor as a former coach and as a former MLS player?

BK: I speak with Aidan at least once or twice a week. He has been a great mentor for me, and helped me tremendously being a better person and goalkeeper. If I ever have a question about something goalkeeping related, he is the first person I call. It is funny; he calls me sometimes to ask for advice on training his goalkeepers at UNCW. We are and always will be close friends for the rest of my life!

MM: Do you have any coaching aspirations at the college/pro level when you are finished with your playing career? 

BK: Yes I do. While I was in New England I worked with a division 3 school as the assistant coach/goalkeeper coach for two years. I am going to be getting my coaching B license next December.

MM: When you think back to the past season, what are some of your fondest memories? Playing internationally against Manchester United, Celtic FC and Chivas? Recording the first clean sheet in team history? Starting against FC Dallas?

BK: This has been one of the best years as a professional for me. Being able to play against the likes of Manchester United, Celtic FC, and Chivas Guadalajara all in the same year was incredible. Most people would dream of playing just one of those teams, and I was fortunate enough to play against all 3. I think the best memory I would take away from this year would be our team earning our first clean sheet in team history against Chicago. What a fantastic night that was! We had been working so hard all year, and had come up short on so many occasions, and to be able to do it in front of our home crowd like we did was just an incredible feeling!

MM: What is your ultimate goal as a Professional Soccer player?

BK: I just want to be able to say at the end of my career that I did the best I could have done, and not have any regrets, and let everything fall as it may.

MM: You played on loan to Portland back in 2008. What can we expect from the Portland Timbers as an organization, fan base, etc?

BK: The Portland Timbers organization is top class. From when I first was loaned out there, I did not know what to expect, but when I met Gavin, and Merit, and the entire organization and coaching staff I felt very welcomed! The fan base there is fantastic. It is going to be such a great addition to the league having them and Vancouver come into the league next year. The Pacific Northwest rivalry will be in full effect. They were a USL team when I was there, and they averaged 14,000 a game. I can’t wait to see their attendance for an MLS game at PGE Park.

MM: What is your off season training regiment going to entail?

BK: I am going to have a running and agility workout and a lifting workout that will probably be a 6-8 week workout. I am going to time that so when I am finished it will be perfect timing to head into preseason camp in January.

MM: Any other off-season plans?

BK: I am going to take a couple weeks off and relax and spend some time with my friends, my wife, and my family since I don't get to see them that often during the season because we are so busy with games. Most likely take a vacation with my wife somewhere tropical after the holidays. Other than that, just lay low, play some golf, some Xbox360, and enjoy the time off!

Thank you Brad for taking the time to let me ask you some questions and more importantly, answering them. It was great watching you between the pipes this season. Have a great off season, and see you in March!

© copyright 2014, Sons of Ben.  Main image by Earl Gardner.