On a very hot Saturday night in Philadelphia, 57,305 people made their way to Lincoln Financial Field to see the Philadelphia Union face off against one of the world’s top club, Real Madrid. This match was more like a home game for Real Madrid then for the Union as most in the crowd were wearing white in support of the La Liga side. Despite being vastly outnumbered, the Union’s supporters were making their presence know with their consent singing and chanting.
Philadelphia started the match with their regular starting XI, and Real field a very strong side but didn’t include former world players of the year Kaka or Cristiano Ronaldo in their starting lineup. The match could not have started any worse for the Union. In the 2nd minute, a defensive miscue by Philadelphia’s RB Sheanon Williams, who has been brilliant for the Union all year, led to Real’s first goal of the match which was scored by Jose Callejon. That was his 2nd goal in the Herbalife World Football Challenge. The Union tried to strike back right away when Sebastien LeToux played a ball into the box for Justin Mapp, but he was forced out, giving up a goal kick. A few minutes later LeToux setup Williams, but the shot went wide. Mardid then came down the field in the 10th minute and the Union had another defensive lapse when Carlos Valdes lost the ball to Karim Benzema. Benzema setup Mesut Ozil for Real’s 2nd goal which proved to be the game winner.
At this point it looked like the Union and their supporters were going to be in for a long night, but after the opening minute jitters, Philly started to play better. About a minute after the goal, Real conceded a corner and Danny Califf’s header went wide. The Union had a great opportunity to get on the scoreboard in the 19th minute when Carlos Ruiz played a ball into LeToux but his shot was right at Iker Casillas and LeToux’s goal drought continued. Real Madrid had another scoring chance when Esteban Granero forced a nice save from Faryd Mondragon. Madrid continued forcing the game on the Union, but couldn’t break them. In the 31st minute Ruiz received a ball the put him one on one with Casillas, but his first touch failed him. Right before half time LeToux was hauled down about 25 yards out. The resulting free kick was put high by Ruiz and the half came to an end with Madrid leading the Union 2-0.
Real made 7 changes to start the 2nd half with Ronaldo and Kaka amongst others coming on. The Union brought in Roger Torres, Danny Mwanga, and Michael Farfan for the start of the 2nd 45 minutes. Philadelphia continued to get chances and limited Real Madrid to some half chances. Zac MacMath, a 65th minute sub for Mondragon, made a solid save of a Ronaldo free kick. Both teams continued making changes throughout the 2nd half with the Union give many of their young players an opportunity to face world class players. The youth movement paid off when Mwanga passed to Mike Farfan who neatly chipped Madrid’s 3rd keeper of the game, Tomas Mejias, to get the Union on the score sheet. Philly continued to attack until the final whistle but were unable to find an equalizer.
Although the Union lost the match, they showed the world that they are not going to roll over no matter who they come up against. The entire squad showed real character Saturday night and fought to the very end.
(image courtesy of Greg Carroccio)