The Union are more than two thirds of the way through their regular season schedule, but some of their most impressive results have come against heavily favored opponents in three international friendlies. In matches against Celtic FC, Manchester United and Chivas Guadalajara, the Union have amassed two wins and two shutouts, while seeing a variety of playing styles in the process.
One thing is obvious whether you look at holding Manchester United goal-less for the first 75 minutes of the match, Eduard Coudet’s debut and game winning assist against Celtic, or even McInerney’s sublime finish against Chivas; the Union have been anything but overmatched despite coming in as overwhelming underdogs on each occasion.
Philadelphia’s most recent triumph came Wednesday night as they shut out Mexican powerhouse Chivas de Guadalajara 1-0, with the lone goal coming from rookie Jack McInerney in the 48th minute.
The club’s valiant efforts in these friendlies may mean nothing in the standings, but that doesn't mean they're unimportant. Their approach clearly emanates from Manager Peter Nowak’s refusal to take any situation lightly, whether it be a league match, friendly or training session.
“Nobody wants to lose games,” Nowak said after the latest success against a high-profile club. “It was a good learning process for all of us, and I think after we watch the film tomorrow we are going to have a better idea how to move forward with our game plan.”
The performances of the Union in their three international exhibitions have not gone unnoticed. After receiving praise from United Manager Sir Alex Ferguson, Guadalajara Manager José Luis Real came away from PPL Park impressed in his own right.
“Union have a strong team,” Real said following his club’s 1-0 loss. “(They) worked well together, especially in the second half. I like [Eduardo] Coudet and Michael [Orozco Fiscal] because I know them from Mexico. The biggest difference was the goalkeeper [Brad Knighton].”
It seems to be a consensus in MLS and abroad that the Union are anything but an easy side to compete against. Celtic, Manchester United, and Chivas de Guadalajara have all discovered and attested to as much. Every successful friendly adds to MLS' growing level of respect amidst the global soccer landscape, with Real being the latest to compliment the American top-flight.
“The style of the game is different, the speed is different,” he said. “I think that in North America and the United States the play is more as a team and in Mexico it is more individual. I think the game has improved a lot. There are a lot players who come from Europe, which is something we don’t have in Mexico, and that helps to improve the game to a different level.”
While the Union made a statement once again against Guadalajara, the club has made it clear that their priority is league play. If all goes according to plan, Philadelphia will ride the momentum of Saturday’s win and earn a similar result Saturday against Kansas City.