CHESTER, Pa. – It took a 17-year-old unsigned player to lead the Philadelphia Union past a top-tier English Premier League club.
In front of a sellout crowd of 18,582 fans at PPL Park on Wednesday night, Christian Hernandez, U.S. Soccer's U-17/18 Development Academy Player of the Year, scored the only goal to lift Philly past Everton F.C., 1-0, in a high-profile international exhibition.
Hernandez, a midfielder, entered the game in the 71st minute and fired a left-footed shot into the back of the net after Everton failed to clear the ball out of the box in the 87th minute.
Fellow academy star Jimmy McLaughlin also gave the Union a spark as a second-half sub, as did teenage rookie Zach Pfeffer, whose initial shot from point-blank range was stopped before Hernandez pounced on the clearance attempt.
Although the game didn’t count toward the MLS standings, Union fans were still energetic watching their exciting young players, even with the absence of Everton starting goalkeeper Tim Howard, a star on the United States Senior Men’s National team, who did not make the trip with Everton.
Nevertheless, the Toffees still started many of their regulars, including captain Phil Neville and their leading scorer from a year ago, Tim Cahill. Jan Mucha, the starter for Slovakia in the 2010 World Cup, manned the net in Howard’s place.
The Union, meanwhile, rested many of their regulars while giving rare starts to exciting playmakers Roger Torres and Jack McInerney and the keys to the net to Zac MacMath, who didn’t need to make a save.
But even with a young team out there, the Union still looked composed and creative through much of the game, while Everton, despite a stroke or two of brilliance, looked like they were in preseason form.
In the first half, Philly enjoyed a couple of decent scoring chances, on headers from striker Danny Mwanga and defender Carlos Valdes, who later a hit a good strike just wide moments before the break.
The Union got even younger in the second half, subbing in a trio of rookies – defender Ryan Richter, midfielder Michael Farfan and goalie Thorne Holder – before later inserting Pfeffer, McLaughlin and Hernandez. 30-year-old Juan Diego Gonzalez, who has yet to play in a league match, also got in to anchor the backline alongside fellow veteran Stefani Miglioranzi, who was wearing the captain’s armband vs. the Toffees.
In the 74th minute, Holder made a huge save on a redirected shot from Everton’s Apostalas Vellias to keep the game scoreless.
Mwanga had a couple more good attempts that went just wide in the second half.
The Union are now 3-1 all-time against international teams, having beaten Celtic FC and Chivas de Guadalajara and losing to Manchester United last season.
Philadelphia host another international club Saturday when Real Madrid comes to Lincoln Financial Field. Everton continues its U.S. tour with a game against D.C. United the same day.
PHI - Christian Hernandez (Unassisted) 87'