Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert laughed when talking about the sweltering conditions currently hanging over the Delaware Valley.
“It’s a bit different for us,” joked Villa’s new man in charge.
Philadelphia in July is a far cry from Birmingham, England.
But make no mistake, Lambert and his squad are looking forward to this pre-season tour of the United States. Lambert and Villa center back Richard Dunne spoke about the growth of soccer in America at a Tuesday press conference.
“I don’t think you should underestimate the league. I really don’t,” said Lambert. “I know Scotland came over here a couple months ago and got well beaten by the American national team. I don’t think you can undersell it. I think there are some really good players over here. I think it’s really an improving league, no doubt about it. We’re in for a hard game, a really tough game.”
“I think all of the players are pleased,” said Ireland international Dunne. “America is a good place and obviously the league has improved a lot over the last few years. It’ll be a good test for us to see where we are in terms of our fitness and our level, and hopefully it will good preparation for the season.”
American internationals Brad Guzan and Eric Lichaj were both named to Aston Villa’s 25 man preseason roster.
And Dunne recently returned from Euro 2012, where he shared the field with countryman Robbie Keane, who now plays his football in MLS.
“He’s really enjoyed himself,” said Dunne. “He’s had a great time. It’s a move that he wanted to do, I think for a long time. He’s been impressed with the (American) setup. The setup with the Galaxy—he said it’s one of the best he’s ever been to. It helps when the facilities are good, the players can improve. The league, it’s only going to get better over the years. I think Robbie’s quite pleased with the choice he made coming over here.”
Wednesday’s match is the second of three exhibitions at PPL Park this season. The Union defeated Bundesliga side Schalke ‘04 by a 2-1 scoreline back in May. Next week, Chester will host the MLS All-Star Game.
“It’s a great honor to have Aston Villa here at PPL Park,” said Union interim head coach John Hackworth. “This is part of their preseason. As coach Lambert said, they’re working very hard, and we understand that. We’re also in a busy stretch of our own season, it’s a little interesting that we’re in the middle of our season and they’re in their pre-season. But I think it’s a great opportunity for two teams to play a good football match. Certainly for our fans and our players it will be fantastic to play against an EPL side.
“I think they are a great team, a fantastic team,” added Union captain Carlos Valdes. “For me, they’re one of the best teams in England, in one of the best leagues around the world. The game will be great for us because there’s always something to learn from these teams. It’s good to learn, but at the same time get some minutes for our guys who aren’t playing.”