Union to Use Celtic Win as Stepping Stone

While Wednesday’s impressive win over Celtic was quite an achievement for the expansion Philadelphia Union, the impact of the feat won’t fully be realized until the club takes to the pitch again this Saturday against Toronto.

Earning a victory against a heavily favored international side, even one just starting their preseason, may very well provide an invaluable lift, especially after a difficult loss to San Jose last Saturday. As the expression goes, however, the proof is in the pudding. Luckily for Philadelphia, dessert is about to be served.

Prior to Saturday’s rematch against Toronto, manager Peter Nowak’s crew can feel good about their accomplishment and the way they went about earning it.

“I think that the first half was very promising from an offensive standpoint,” Nowak said following the 1-0 win. “There were lapses and situations where we could have performed better, but I think we put some good things together.

“In the second half, (we) showed some of our guys’ inexperience. You could see their excitement, nervousness, whatever. But that gets better with experience and I think the experience like tonight where you have a big name like Celtic prepares you moving forward.”

The Union will need to be prepared against the Reds, as the visitors currently sit in third place in the Eastern Conference. To a man, Philadelphia players seem to be in better spirits than they were before topping Celtic at PPL Park.

“It’s good because it gives us confidence to play,” said midfielder Fred. “Celtic is a big team in the world. This is nice for everybody. This is like training, but you have to do everything (we did in the Celtic match) against Toronto.”

The Union may have lost against San Jose, but they played well enough to take all three points and arguably as well in the run of play as they did in a 3-1 win over Seattle in the PPL Park opener. Their strong form continued on Wednesday against Celtic to the satisfaction of captain Danny Califf.

“Absolutely I’m proud of our guys,” said Califf. “We played without fear and with confidence. They’re a good team but tonight we were a better team. They’re just starting preseason so it’s understandable (that they weren’t in top form), but I was proud of our guys, proud of our effort, and you can’t take anything away from that.”

“It was an even player against an even player,” added forward Sebastien Le Toux, who scored the match’s only goal. “(Celtic) may say they were tired, but we were maybe a little bit tired too because we played on Saturday. All of us played tonight and we scored a goal against them. They had some opportunities, but we stayed strong and everyone did a great job.

“Even if they were tired or not playing all their best players, a lot of people speak and may say Celtic is a much better team than Philadelphia and we saw tonight that, even if it was a sub team, they didn’t beat us and it’s good for our confidence. We have to continue (to play) this way.”

It’s not like the Union fielded their starters for the full 90 minutes, with only the club’s four starting defenders staying on the field after the break. Regardless, the Celtic match was the perfect way for the club to put the loss against the Earthquakes behind them. Doing so can only help against Toronto, a match that Philadelphia will be eager to walk away from with maximum points.

“It was important to forget about what happened Saturday," said Le Toux. "For myself, I missed some opportunities to score in the second half (against San Jose) and I really wanted to find the net today. It was good but we have to continue and get ready for Toronto. They are a good team. We have to play the same way (we did against Celtic). I think we are going to be prepared for Saturday and try to win for our fans.”