Despite a break from MLS action, the Union continues to hone its skills for the long haul.
This weekend, a Saturday friendly against Mexican League club Pumas UNAM (5 p.m., purchase tickets) is next on the docket at PPL Park.
For Union homegrown midfielder Cristhian Hernandez, it’s a match that speaks volumes. Hernandez, a Mexican-American born in Guadalajara, ranked Pumas among the class of the Mexican first division.
And he’d be correct.
Pumas UNAM (Club Universidad Nacional A.C.) are the winner of seven Mexican first division titles and four international championships and were runners-up in the prestigious South American Cup in 2005. The club, which gets is name being under the auspices of the country’s largest university located in Mexico City, is scheduled for a two-match U.S. tour beginning Wednesday night against the Carolina RailHawks.
“This is going to be good for us, especially against a club like Pumas,” Hernandez told philadelphiaunion.com. “They’re one of the biggest clubs in Mexico if not the biggest and so it’s going to be a good test, especially for a lot of the guys who haven’t seen a lot of playing time…it’s going to be one of those games where we are going to prove to [coach John Hackworth] that we can play because we know Pumas is going to bring their ‘A’ game.”
It’s a match that for a lot of guys gives the technical staff a perfect platform to gauge the club’s depth and the skill of players in certain roles. Pumas UNAM won’t lie down as it’s been confirmed that many of its notable have made the trip, including Argentine striker Martin Ivan Bravo.
However, for the Union the opponent is secondary, it’s more about keeping the momentum that has the club second in MLS Eastern Conference going.
“We have to try and keep our rhythm going,” said Hackworth. “It’s a really good time to push these guys so we’ll have some really hard training sessions [this week]. We have a friendly here so guys who haven’t played will get an opportunity to show everyone how much true competition we had in preseason.”
In Pumas UNAM, the competition will be equally as fierce for the guys that take the field for the Union, says Hernandez. In a country where soccer is paramount, Hernandez feels it’s premier league conveys that notion and will be on display at PPL Park on Saturday.
“In Mexico soccer is the biggest sport, everyone is concentrated on soccer,” said Hernandez. “And Pumas is one of the best in the country like I said before…Mexico teams come here and they look at how we play in MLS and they see that it’s continuing to grow, but you know you have some skeptics. This game is perfect situation for us to show that MLS is not what people think. We are a really good league with good teams and good players.”
Contact Union writer Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org