The Philadelphia Union are the youngest team in MLS this year. Going into an international friendly, everyone knew the reserves would be getting some time, so that meant the U would be even younger for the matchup against Man U.
Coming off of their first win over Celtic last week, their first win against a European club, and a big MLS win against Toronto on Saturday, the Union were looking forward to the challenge.
Since Man U has such a huge and dedicated (read: bandwagon) fan base, the game was played at Lincoln Financial Field to hold the 44,000+ that attended. Many expected the Red Devils to wipe the pitch with the Union, but the “hosts” were more than up to it.
For 2/3 of the match, the Union controlled the game. Both teams had a few chances to score, but the Union & United defenders kept the match scoreless until the 75th minute, when a bad turnover by the Union led to an easy goal for Man U. That would be the only goal of the match and it ended with the final score 1-0 in favor of Manchester United.
Even with the loss, the Union has to be happy with the way that they played the past week. Getting the win over Celtic was huge, especially coming in front of their real home fans at PPL Park. Doesn’t count in the standings, but it counts in the perception of the Union. Stealing a win over Toronto with a late PK goal by Le Toux was great, after losing their last MLS match late against San Jose. Losing by 1 to Man U, especially with so many youngsters playing for the good guys, is another big step. They controlled the game for the most part and easily could have emerged with a tie, or even a win.
Now, with the friendlies over for a bit, the Union will get back to focusing on MLS. They currently sit at 7th in the Eastern Conference with 14 points, ahead of only DC United. With 9 home games left in the second half, the Union could climb up the ladder pretty easily. This team clearly plays better in front of their home fans, and this backloaded schedule could help a lot. Having 10 days off after a couple of busy weeks will also help.
Being an expansion team in any sport is tough, but the Union are making big strides so far and will only get better as they gain experience.