CHESTER, Pa. – For the first time, the Union lost in an international match at PPL Park as English club Aston Villa came away with a 1-0 victory behind Nathan Delfouneso’s 43rd-minute goal and stalwart team defensive play.
It was a fast start for the visitors, who had the lion’s share of chances in the early going. The game remained scoreless well into the first half, however, in large part due to big saves from Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath on chances by Aston Villa’s Brett Holman, Nathan Delfouneso, and Darren Bent.
As halftime approached, Delfouneso finally broke the deadlock. The forward settled a pass from Holman just outside the Union box and put a hard strike on goal out of the reach of a diving MacMath to give Aston Villa the 1-0 advantage, a lead that manager Paul Lambert’s club would not surrender.
The Union, who recorded seven shots on the night, had a chance to equalize in the first half when Antoine Hoppenot sprinted towards the Villa endline, but his ball into the six-yard box was cleared away from danger before a teammate could provide the finish.
Philadelphia had their best chances in the second half, first in the 73rd minute when Josue Martinez’s shot when through the legs of a Villa defender and past goalkeeper Brad Guzan, but it trickled wide of the far post. In the 81st minute, Union defender Greg Jordan blasted a lefty shot that looked headed for goal but went just high of the crossbar.
As anticipated, the Union used tonight’s friendly to give extended playing time to a substantial portion of their roster.
Those in tonight’s starting eleven included Ray Gaddis—who played the full ninety—as well as Zach Pfeffer, Roger Torres, Jimmy McLaughlin and Cristhian Hernandez. Antoine Hoppenot—a rare sight in the first half for Union fans—also got the starting nod, as did regulars Zac MacMath, Amobi Okugo, Carlos Valdes, Gabriel Farfan, and Gabriel Gomez.
Philadelphia made two waves of substitutions, one at the half and one in the 60th minute, giving nearly every available player at least a half-hour of action against the Premier League side.
Aston Villa also made use of an extensive bench, as the Birmingham-based club prepares for the start of another Barclays Premier League campaign in August. The “Villans” continue their United States tour with upcoming matches in Chicago and Portland.
The Union return to action on Saturday, when they take on rival New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena in an important Eastern Conference matchup (2:30 p.m., ESPN). With a win, Philadelphia would extend their franchise-high winning streak to four games.