Union Hold Their Own vs Celtic, Man Utd

Philadelphia cumulatively played to a 1-1 draw between the two matches

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Photo Credit: 
Greg Carroccio/Sideline Photos

When the Philadelphia Union set up international friendlies
against two of the most storied clubs in world soccer, Manchester United FC and
Celtic FC, expectations on the pitch were tempered outside of the Union locker
room. While fans hoped for competitive matches, many would’ve been satisfied
with simply avoiding blowout losses.

After playing both clubs within an eight-day period, with
a 2-1 win against Toronto sandwiched in between, the Union exceeded
expectations by all accounts.  In
fact, after 180 minutes plus stoppage time between the two friendlies, the
Union emerged dead even on the scoreboard, beating Celtic 1-0 and losing to the
Red Devils by the same score.

For Philadelphia, the results are motivating, but not
nearly as important as the experience gained and lessons learned.

“Our philosophy is that we want to try to build something
here,” said Union Coach John Hackworth after yesterday’s match against United.
“We want to establish a soccer culture with our club, and we do that by trying
to consistently play the soccer that we play in training every day. That soccer
involves a little bit of technical ability, good ball movement, mobility, and
putting numbers into the attack.

“The demands on our players are very strong, the same as
Manchester United does on their players. There is a tremendous amount of work
to be done on both sides of the ball. When we approach this game, we don’t do
anything different. As for our starters, I think they held their own out there
tonight.”

Not only did they hold their own against one of the
world’s elite clubs, they outplayed Sir Alex Ferguson’s side in the run of play
for the first 45 minutes, registering more shots on goal in the process. United
clearly showed their class as well, but Philadelphia by no means looked like a
far inferior squad.

“I don’t think that if you look at the first half, that
Manchester United’s tactics were so superior to the Union’s,” added Hackworth. “I
think on the whole that you can say the level of play is much higher (with
United) because of the athletes, and the work ethic and the mentality, not to
mention the technical and tactical ability of those players to execute at that
speed. That’s what I think the difference is and what we need to continually
strive for. “

The Union are certainly headed in the right direction if the
two friendlies and their recent quality in league play are any indication, and
it appears Ferguson would agree.

“I thought that this was the kind of game we needed,” he
said after narrowly edging the Union. “The Union were very durable, aggressive,
and got to the ball quickly and made it really difficult for us. It was a good
game for us. They were very good opponents. I thought they did really well.”

When Philadelphia resume MLS action on July 31 against
New England, we’ll see if the Union continue to evolve at their current rapid
pace.

For now, keeping up with Manchester United and Celtic
will do just fine.