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Union look to extend international winning streak, gain experience

The goal of a friendly goes beyond winning.

For the Philadelphia Union, it’s about playing well, executing the gameplan and giving their players some added experience against world-class clubs.

Winning is a bonus and it’s something the Union have accomplished consistently at PPL Park. If the Union can defeat Barclays English Premier League club Aston Villa on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. EST at PPL Park, they’ll extend their winning streak to five in friendlies in their home stadium.

Philadelphia has previously defeated Celtic FC, Chivas de Guadalajara, Everton and Bundesliga side FC Schalke 04 earlier this season.

“It’s always a goal of ours to win, no matter who we’re playing,” said central defender, captain and first-time MLS All-Star Carlos Valdes. “We want to play well and try and win the match. You always want to win the match.”

One of the oldest and most successful clubs in England, Aston Villa has won the FA Cup and First Division Championship seven times.

Aston Villa FC announced their traveling roster for this match and the list of players include forward Darren Bent and U.S. internationals Brad Guzan and Eric Lichaj. Bent has tallied 147 goals in 350 matches throughout his career. Meanwhile, Lichaj has appeared in eight games for the U.S. Men’s National Team as a defender since joining the squad in 2010, while goalkeeper Guzan has earned 20 caps since beginning his time with the USMNT in ‘06.

The rest of the club is quite formidable, too.

“We know this is a great club we’ll be facing,” said goalkeeper Zac MacMath. “We don’t look at this as a break. For us, it’s an opportunity to get more experience before we play New York. We need to stay focused and be ready for Aston Villa. We need to play well against a very good club and take that momentum into New York.”

The Union defeated the Montreal Impact, 2-1, last Saturday for their first three-match league winning streak in franchise history. Getting a fourth victory will be difficult against the Red Bulls on Saturday.

Before facing their I-95 rivals, they’ll have to contend with Aston Villa, hardly an easy task. There might be some roster shuffling for Wednesday's match.

“I want to give full respect to Aston Villa,” said interim manager John Hackworth. “We just got to see who’s healthy, but it’s a friendly. Our main focus is to keep battling in the Eastern Conference. Our focus, while it’s important to play that friendly, it might be a better chance for those guys not playing the first team minutes right now.”


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