Union youngsters relish playing time in win vs. Schalke 04
CHESTER, Pa. -- The result doesn’t technically count.
But to the players, especially the younger ones, the result – and the game experience – means everything.
The Philadelphia Union earned a hard-fought 2-1 victory over FC Schalke 04 Wednesday night at rainy PPL Park. Schalke played the majority of their stars, including Raul, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar -- who sustained an apparent head injury in a collision with goalkeeper Chase Harrison -- and U.S. National Team player Jermaine Jones.
Schalke recently finished in third place in the Bundesliga and qualified for Champions League play.
And the Union came away with a win, improving to 4-0-0 all-time in friendlies at PPL Park following previous 1-0 clean sheets over Everton, Chivas de Guadalajara and Celtic FC.
“There’s nothing better than game experience,” said 19-year-old midfielder Jimmy McLaughlin. “It’s the best way to improve and be able to go out and play and work on things you’ve been working on in practice. It’s a big step forward for all of us and it was great to be able to get some time in a great environment like this against a lot of great players.”
Forward Antoine Hoppenot entered the match as a substitute in the 46th minute and played the duration.
Those minutes were incredibly valuable.
“Oh my, it felt great to get out there and get some time in a game,” said Hoppenot, who was the selected by the club with the 39th overall in last year’s MLS Supplemental Draft. “Getting playing time is always a great thing. One thing that’s different from practice to games is the speed of play. It’s 100 times faster than what you’re used to in practice. I had to catch up a little bit to the speed of play. Once I did, I relaxed and it felt great.”
Rookie forward Chandler Hoffman sure felt great after scoring the game-winning goal in the 88th minute.
Even though the former UCLA star already had started one MLS game earlier this season, this was just as sweet. He even swapped jerseys with Jones.
“It was a really cool feeling to get that goal,” said Hoffman, the 13th overall pick in last year’s MLS SuperDraft. “Ray (Gaddis) left me a great pass and I just sent it home. I thought we did a great job overall. It’s always a great thing to play against a side such as Schalke with all of their star players. I think it will help with the whole team’s confidence, sure. I’m thrilled personally and hopefully this will carry over into Sunday’s match against New York.”
Backup goalkeeper Chris Konopka played the entire second half and made four saves, denying Schalke on several promising scoring chances.
“It helps a ton,” Konopka said of receiving playing time. “From a goalkeeper’s point of view, the chance to play is a great thing. It’s tough to get minutes in games in this league. So to play and get some experience in a match like this will help so much. I think any game experience we can get is a positive thing.”
WATCH: Post-game reactions