PHILADELPHIA — The goals were always simple: perform well, avoid injuries, and enjoy the experience.
The Union did all three of those things against Everton and Real Madrid this week, treating over 75,000 combined fans to two entertaining matches at PPL Park and Lincoln Financial Field.
“When we left New England last Monday, [Union manager] Peter [Nowak] talked about this being a very fun week for us,” coach John Hackworth said following Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Madrid. “It was a break from the league matches, but we had two fantastic opponents in our hometown. We did what we wanted to do by getting guys a lot of valuable minutes. You can’t say enough about the crowd. It was fun, but now we go back to work on the league side next Friday.”
The home side went down early against Real, conceding two goals in a shaky first 15 minutes. But the Union performed well for the remainder of the game, grabbing a second half goal and threatening to find a late equalizer.
WATCH: Full match highlights
The Union performed far better against Los Merengues than the LA Galaxy and Chivas Guadalajara did in the 2011 Herbalife World Football Challenge. The Western Conference leading Galaxy lost 4-1 last Saturday, while Chivas went down 3-0 on Wednesday.
The Union managed 13 shots against Madrid and possession was fairly even — 56% to 44% in favor of the visitors.
“I definitely think it was a great test for us,” said Michael Farfan, whose stellar chipped goal put the Union back in the game. “We showed we can play and I think it will help us for the rest of the season. We had a lot of chances, and we could have put a couple away. But that’s the game, and I think it was a fair result.”
“I’d hope that we did enough to gain respect of the fans that might not have previously seen the Union,” added center back Danny Califf. “You never really know at the end of the day. I think, aside from the first two minutes, we put in a performance that was worthy of people paying attention to us.”
Despite the loss, the Union have a +1 goal differential in five international friendlies over two seasons. Philadelphia have beaten Everton, Celtic FC and Chivas Guadalajara 1-0, while losing 1-0 and 2-1 to Manchester United and Real Madrid, respectively.
"I think we probably won some fans tonight, for sure," said Hackworth. "And I think we did it not because of the score line, but because of the way we played. Aside from the shaky beginning, we weren’t scared to try to play, and play through them, to possess the ball, to get combinations, and to get numbers forward. Those are things that, I think any fan watching, when they walk away from a Union game, they say ‘that was pretty entertaining, it was exciting, it was fun to watch.'
After a successful week, the Union return to league action on Friday against the defending MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids.
“These [friendlies] are nice, to play against different styles, teams you usually watch on TV — it's been fantastic,” said Califf. “But come Friday, it’s down to business. The rest of the year it’s about MLS, getting points, and getting into the playoffs.”