The Union find themselves in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, but the club is looking up after regaining their confidence with a thrilling, last-gasp win in New England this Saturday. They’ll have a chance to build on that momentum heading into a weekend tilt against the Kansas City Wizards with a friendly Wednesday at PPL Park against Mexican power Chivas de Guadalajara. The match offers Philadelphia an opportunity to grab hold of bragging rights in the North American soccer landscape, as well as a chance to continue to improve their form heading into the stretch run of the MLS season.
Chivas de Guadalarjara are a club with a storied history and adoring fans on both sides of the border and around the world. The first division Mexican club has won 11 league titles overall, and they’re also only one of two Mexican teams to have never been relegated to the second division. That feat is all the more impressive when you consider that their legacy spans more than 100 years. Another interesting note about the “Goats” is that they’re known for their insistence on fielding a team of only Mexican players.
While the Union are certainly looking forward to their third high-profile international friendly this year, it’s clear that, more than anything, they’re using the match as another chance to gain experience.
“Yeah, hopefully we can put a good 90 minutes together tomorrow night and get sharp for this weekend,” midfielder Justin Mapp told philadelphiaunion.com after training Tuesday. “We use it as a building block towards this weekend. The main thing is to try and get three points this weekend at home against KC, but tomorrow night will kind of be a dress rehearsal for that. We’ll need to be ready tomorrow night and build (on) that (heading) into the weekend.”
"We're just going to get some players out there and try some new things," added rookie forward Jack McInerney. "Stuff we've been working on, we're going to go out there and over exaggerate on the field tomorrow so we can come out strong in our league match Saturday."
Philadelphia’s approach to the friendly doesn’t minimize the challenge ahead, however. Guadalajara are a dangerous bunch, led by enigmatic striker Adolfo “Bofo” Bautista and stalwart defender Jonny Magallon. Omar Bravo has also recently made a return to the club, and MLS fans will want to watch him on Wednesday. Bravo was recently signed by the Kansas City Wizards and will join the MLS outfit for the 2011 season, currently staying with Chivas on loan until the end of the Apertura. Bravo led the Goats to an Apertura title in 2006, registering 11 goals in the process, before eventually moving on to La Liga side Deportivo La Coruna in 2008.
One member of the Union particularly familiar with Chivas is Michael Orozco Fiscal, who is currently on loan with Philadelphia from Mexican First Division side San Luis. While Orozco Fiscal knows the type of talent the Union will see Wednesday, he, too, knows that the result isn’t necessarily the most important takeaway.
“They obviously have a lot of good players,” he said. “I think Bofo Bautista, Bravo, who is coming to KC and we’re going to be facing a lot, and [Omar] Arellano, who is always a guy that’s going to be, like Chicharito, good going forward. They do a lot for the team and score (when they have) opportunities and we just have to shut them down and play our game.”
Whatever the outcome Wednesday night, one thing is for sure: we should see some entertaining, attacking soccer from two teams who rarely play for the draw.