It was just a friendly. Neither side fielded their full complement of players. The Union are in midseason form, while Everton are touring the US in pre-season mode. All appropriate disclaimers acknowledged, it still felt good to see the Philadelphia Union beat Everton FC at PPL Park last night.
The final score read 1-0, but the Union controlled most of the game, and had a few golden opportunities narrowly miss on a night when pristine finishing eluded them. Their younger players had a chance to play hard against an esteemed English side, and they played their asses off.
The friendly was a good opportunity to see some international players and also some of the Union's own young talent on display. Roger Torres, 20, played big minutes and controlled the Union attack. Later in the game, we got to see the likes of Zach Pfeffer and Christian Hernandez, who are 16 and 17 years of age, respectively, and facing off against Everton. Fellow Union Academy stud Jimmy McLaughlin and local product Ryan Richter also played well.
Pfeffer has received his share of acknowledgement already, but Hernandez took home the headlines last night, scoring the game's only goal. Hernandez, the U-17/18 Development Academy Player of the Year, entered the game in the 71st minute and broke its scoreless tie in the 87th. He knocked home a ball that Everton failed to clear after Pfeffer took a dangerous shot.
The MLS teams haven't been faring well in the European invasion this week, so a Union loss would have been understandable. Instead, they probably should have won this by a goal or two more, missing out a few "Awww"-inspiring opportunities.
With Faryd Mondragon joining Tim Howard in sitting this one out, Zac MacMath and Thorne Holder (awesome name) kept the sheet clean for the Union. Holder made an amazing save to keep the game level in the 74th minute.
The Union had an edge to them in the game, and despite the low stakes and a lack of much offensive motivation, so did some of the Everton players. John Heitinga earned an ejection, perhaps inspired by Benny Feilhaber in the previous match footage he saw. The Union wouldn't let themselves be bullied though, with the kids and the veterans standing pushing back as needed.
So, as I began… it wasn't a high-stakes match, and we saw a lot of reserves and youngins get significant PT. But both the depth and the future of the Union were on display last night, and each looked good.
The write-up on Everton's own page doesn't water down the result, and friendly or no, this is on the front of their page right now:
Photos by Nick Waters