Despite winning two matches in a row and generating some solid early-season rhythm, the Philadelphia Union will have to wait an extra week to extend their streak March 30 at New York.
And that’s just fine with manager John Hackworth.
After consecutive wins against the Colorado Rapids and New England Revolution, the Union will take a break from league play to host Mexican League club Pumas UNAM – Club Universidad Nacional A.C. Saturday at PPL Park.
Pumas has won seven Mexican first division titles and four international championships. The club was runners-up in the South American Cup in 2005. It’s the finale of a two-match tour for Pumas beginning Wednesday night against the Carolina RailHawks.
“Saturday is interesting (and) I actually like it because it allows us to keep in a rhythm week in and week out,” Hackworth said. “It also allows us to take some pressure off the game for Saturday. Normally, when we’re playing a league game, our Thursday and Friday is dedicated to preparing for that opponent. We don’t necessarily have to do that against Pumas.
“It’s an international friendly. The opportunity is to try and stay in the same rhythm, give a bunch of guys an opportunity who haven’t had the chance to get on the field get a chance to shine. It’s a chance to see what they’re doing as I keep talking about is good competition, and we’ll see that on Saturday.”
Hackworth said to expect 8-10 new players on the field against Pumas.
When this friendly is complete, all the Union’s focus will go directly to a huge rivalry match against New York at Red Bull Arena.
“We are focused on New York,” Hackworth said. “Normally, I would at least have done some scouting on Pumas, but I haven’t even done that, to be fair. I’ve let my assistants handle that. … The reality is our focus is on New York and this game just allows us a competitive situation where we can put it to the test where we can see if what we’re doing on the training pitch is working.”
While Hackworth didn’t offer specifics on Pumas, he realizes that the match will be highly competitive.
“They’re a good team,” Hackworth said. “They’ve always been a good team and historically they’re a very good team in Mexico. It’s an honor and a privilege to play against them here at PPL. We’ll treat this the way we’ve treated all our other internationals. We’ll try to win the game but yet our focus is on providing some opportunities improving on things we need to work on. So we’ll focus on that more than what they’ll be like tactically.”
Pumas last won the Clausura Tournament title in 2011 but had its best season in 2004. The club earned back-to-back Primera division titles, becoming the first and only team to accomplish that feat since the Mexican League was split into two seasons.
Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at email@example.com