John Hackworth has underlined the benefits of last night’s International Friendly game with Premier League outfit Aston Villa as he prepares his squad for Saturday’s MLS clash with I-95 rivals New York Red Bulls.
Philadelphia Union will make the short journey to Red Bull Arena with Hackworth’s players raring to go after grabbing the opportunity to test themselves against players from one of the world’s biggest and best leagues at PPL Park.
Despite making significant changes to the side which defeated Montreal Impact on Saturday – employing a mix of established names in support of a number of up-and-coming youngsters – the Union suffered the narrowest of defeats; Nathan Delfouneso’s searing strike on the stroke of halftime the game’s solitary goal.
“We just wanted to balance our roster a little bit so we that we gave a fair chance for all the guys to be successful,” Hackworth explained in his post-match press conference.
“What we tried to do is make sure a lot of the regular starters got a good 30-45 minutes of a high intensity training session today, which is a game. So we balanced that between the first and second half a little bit.”
Starting with first team regulars including recently announced MLS All-Star Carlos Valdés, Amobi Okugo, Gabriel Farfan and Gabriel Gómez, the Union assembled a solid structure around its youngsters from the start, enabling them to play with freedom and confidence against outstanding opposition before a number of further additional personnel changes in the second period.
“I thought it was an excellent way to support some of these younger players, with Gómez supporting Zach Pfeffer and Roger Torres in front of him,” Hackworth added. “I thought it was really excellent.”
“It’s a great way for young players to test themselves, to see if they are ready to play at that level. More importantly to see if they are ready to play the kind of soccer they are going to represent every time they step on the field. That’s a hard thing for young guys to understand and especially even harder to go do.
”The mental toughness and the physical preparation that has to go into playing the way you saw our team play that last 30 minutes, that’s the expectation and I’m never going to drop that.
“First time I sat up here as interim team manager I said, ‘Hey we’re going to play the way the fans deserve to see the Union soccer be played’. I’m proud of the way the team played there.”
The Union face New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena on Saturday, kick-off at 2:30pm ET. Don’t miss a second of the action with coverage live on ESPN.