It’s the day before the biggest game of the season for the Union and Brandon Comisky is in the River End section of Subaru Park, checking for wayward balls in the stands.
You’d think the Union’s director of equipment operations would have more pressing things to do after the team’s final practice, but before last week’s Eastern Conference semifinal with Cincinnati. , there has been no mad rush when it comes to final preparations.
This is because the work had been done days before.
As the team exits the locker room after practice, Comisky calmly strolls through the equipment room where pre-game warm-ups and ironed uniforms hang on rolling racks waiting to be assigned to the stands of the players.
That’s how Comisky prefers it. Whether it’s a playoff game or a pre-season scrimmage, there’s not a single day of preparation when you’re tending to the needs of 27 players – all with details regarding their own preparation of game. If anyone were to attest that the old sporting adage look good, play goodreally exists, so Comisky, now in his 10th season with the Union, would be able to explain — right down to the personality type.
“It’s about building relationships,” Comisky told The Inquirer. “For a lot of these guys, I already know what they’re going to want even before the game. So for me, it’s knowing what they need so there’s no rush. If you have a relationship with them and something happens, you have a better chance of something bad not becoming catastrophic.
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So what are the details? How about starting with each player getting three sets of shirts and two pairs of shorts per game as a baseline and going from there? There are guys who change shirts every half. There are guys who will change their cleats at halftime. There are the guys who have a penchant for throwing their gear into the ecstatic supporters section after a win.
And then there are players like defender Olivier Mbaizo who changes his whole outfit down to his socks every break. Yes, you read that right. A new kit after the warm-ups, a new kit to start the game and a new kit coming out of the tunnel to start the second half.
“Each player gets three [jerseys] per game and two pairs of shorts,” Comisky explained. “We reuse them until they donate them or tear them or get them dirty, all that sort of thing. But yeah, there are just guys who need more. We do our best to accommodate them. »
It’s not the job Comisky thought he’d have with the club when he arrived as a fresh marketing trainee from Rutgers in 2012. His role isn’t just with the first team, as he oversees the equipment that is given to the young people of the Union. academy, work which is expected to intensify with the announcement that the academy and its school will move to Chester in the near future.
“I started in 2012 as an intern and got the job as a full-time assistant [equipment manager] in 2013,” Comisky said. “But even after a year, I was naive about the whole work environment and what it takes. What helped my development were people like [team coordinator] Josh Big and [director of player relations] Dan Nolan and [head coach] Jim [Curtin]. They were always supportive and knowing I had these guys in my corner really helped me learn the craft and realize that I had an opportunity to really make this my own.
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Things are very different since Comisky started. For starters, success and a new front office management collective has enabled charter flights, which means gear doesn’t get lost at random airports.
Although the latter makes great stories like this, Comisky shared an away game against Real Salt Lake in 2015.
“We used to fly commercially and had an entire bag of shoes and boots that got lost at the Philadelphia airport. Luckily we flew out a day early to practice at Rio Tinto [Stadium], but when we were getting ready for practice the night before, we realized we were missing a bag of shoes. It was like 1 am and nothing was open. The next day we left the hotel and found a local football store, and we [former forward] Fernando Aristeguieta backs two pairs of Adidas Predators. It would be like going to Angelo’s [Soccer Corner] and buy them from there. He scored two goals in that game and we won.
The Union became a very different club in the years that followed, becoming not only a permanent playoff contender, but the Eastern Conference class of MLS, winning the Supporters’ Shield as the team with the most points in 2020 and coming a few. points to claim that title again this year.
For the second season in a row, the team is one game away from its first MLS Cup appearance. Anyone familiar with the club’s recent success knows that it hasn’t come without a host of setbacks. That’s why Comisky, who has been around since almost the club’s inception, remains committed to the club – and to the various players who wear its crest.
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“There were a lot of pinch moments for me,” Comisky said. “I remember having to haul all our gear on a bus and drive to Chester Park for training and now we have this great facility. We are building a new facility. Honestly, it’s humbling because you saw what it was and never thought it would be this good. So I give a lot of credit to Jim, the staff and this organization for turning it into what it is now. I’m honestly just happy to be a part of all of this, for better or for worse.