This match may have been a friendly, but the action on the field represented much more.
In the annual summer scorcher against developmental affiliate, Reading United, the Philadelphia Union were able to get the victory following a 3-2 final at Gurski Stadium.
Reading United A.C. is the Union's affiliate in the Professional Development League (PDL), which means it’s possible some of these players on display tonight could be taking their talents on day from the tiny confines of Gurski Stadium to the palacial expanse that is Chester's PPL Park.
What this game symbolized was a continuously budding partnership where both parties benefit. For the Union it was a time to get some players that typically don’t see first team action serious minutes in a game scenario. For Reading United players it’s the time to showcase their talents.
Two non-first team Union regulars left their mark on the game in addition to Harrisburg City Islanders forward Jamiel Hardware who registered twice for the Union. Hardware was called up a day after playing for the City Islanders -- the Union's USL-PRO affiliate -- in fourth round play of the U.S. Open Cup.
For Reading, Max Touloute impressed with a classy finish over Union backup goalkeeper Brian Holt.
For these players this game means it all because each one of them had the chance to play in front of newly installed Union interim manager, Jim Curtin.
“It’s a great partnership, Reading is a club that has produced a ton of MLS players, produced a ton that are our roster alone, and then you look throughout the MLS and they’re everywhere," Curtin said, postgame. "It’s a good test for some of our guys that needed minutes, we had some Academy kids and we had some trialists, which was a good exercise for them to play against some of the top college players in the nation. These guys that they’re playing against are going to be in the league next year so it’s a good exercise.”
On the other side of the coin, Reading head coach David Castellanos is the one making the decisions about who not only has the best chance of being promoted but also who gives him the best chance to win.
“For us it’s great, it’s one of those recruiting tools to get some of these top college guys into it. We have a great relationship with the Philadelphia Union and we’re very pleased as an organization to get a game like this.”
What both coaches understand is that this game isn’t a friendly in the typical since of the word. It’s a joint venture, both teams benefit from its proceedings. The outcome wasn’t the important thing tonight it was about understanding the benefits from being able to play a meaningful game against yourself.
And those in attendance witnessed the present but more importantly many players of the future for the Union going forward.
Union intern Bob Devine and Doug Ammon contributed to this report.