The Union have received outstanding support at PPL Park - but for Saturday's game against the visiting Chicago Fire, at least two season-ticket holders won't be rooting for the home team.

That would be the parents of Jon Conway, who is returning as the goalkeeper for the Fire. Conway is a graduate of Sun Valley High School and went on to star at Rutgers.

His parents may have Union tickets, but, of course, blood is thicker than the home team, or something like that.

And if anybody thinks this is just another game for the 34-year-old Conway, think again.

"My parents are huge soccer fans, and I get to come in and play at home," Conway said in a recent phone interview. "I think the stadium is great, the location is great by the river, and the fans are rowdy like good Philadelphia fans."

Conway has taken a long path to returning home. He has been both a backup and a starter during his long Major League Soccer career, which began in 2000 with San Jose. This is one of those seasons he has earned some extended playing time.

Fire keeper Sean Johnson has been sidelined with a right quadriceps strain, and Conway has started the last five games, going 0-4-1 with one shutout and a 1.2 goals-against average. Johnson returned to practice on Tuesday with the Fire.

This is Conway's first year in Chicago after appearing in just one game as a backup last year in Toronto.

Conway, who was a reserve on MLS title teams in San Jose in 2001 and 2003, is the oldest player on the team and has received his share of good-natured barbs from teammates.

"Most teams have some older guys. Now I seem to be that guy, and it's a different role for me, and I am learning how to help the younger players," he said.

Conway was brought to the team for his experience, and the Fire are happy with his leadership.

"You can't put a price on the commanding influence a goalkeeper brings to a team," Fire goalkeeper coach Aron Hyde said in a phone interview. "Jon always keeps himself sharp. He has been on two championship teams and has seen every situation possible."

The only blemish on Conway's career came in October 2008, when he was suspended 10 matches and fined 10 percent of his annual salary for testing positive for androstenedione and boldenone metabolites, two banned performance-enhancing substances. Conway said the positive result came after he took an over-the-counter supplement.

It's obviously something Conway doesn't dwell on. He said he simply took the supplement without realizing it included a banned substance.

"That is what happened," he said. "I understand it has to be asked, but I would rather leave it where it is and move on."

Conway lives in Chicago and says he has enjoyed residing in big cities. In addition to San Jose and Toronto, his career has included stints with the New York Red Bulls and Chivas USA in Los Angeles.

One of the biggest changes he has seen in his long MLS career has been the move to new soccer-specific venues such as PPL Park.

"It's great to see us not playing in huge football stadiums, and these new stadiums like PPL Park are great," he said.

Another reason Conway has lasted so long is that he has always been prepared.

"I never go through the motions in training, and if I am called on I feel ready," he said. "I love getting out there and competing, and I'm still motivated to go out every day."

This week he has a little extra motivation. His biggest challenge will be securing enough tickets for friends.

"I've been pleading with my teammates for tickets," he said, laughing.

Giving Conway a few tickets is the least his teammates could do for an older guy who has more than kept up with his younger teammates and continues to enjoy his long MLS ride.

Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225, mnarducci@phillynews.com,
or @sjnard on Twitter.