Friendly: Philadelphia Union 0, Aston Villa 1
By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood | Only Love Soccer
Normally I’m bored by friendly matches, but since my team was playing this one, I thought it would be a good enough excuse to do a write-up. Villa opened their 3-match U.S. tour (the other matches being against the Chicago Fire and Portland Timbers) by playing the Union at PPL Park in Chester, Pa. I get the appeal of bringing European teams in for friendlies, but I imagine for the manager and some of the players, having to stop in the middle of the season to play a meaningless game against a team that will probably play reserves for half of the match has to be frustrating. But as the MLS continues to grow, we’ll see more of these. Anyway, on to the match.
Aston Villa’s lineup was made up mostly of players who will be expected to start, along with the odd wildcard (Nathan Delfouneso, Barry Bannan). They dominated the first half – particularly the first 20 minutes or so, and Delfouneso in particular had several chances to score he didn’t take. He ended up making up for it late in the first half, though, curling the ball into Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath’s top right corner after a layoff from new signing Brett Holman. In the second half, both teams made a flurry of changes, and the Union were probably the better team the last 25 minutes or so.
Overall, it wasn’t a particularly exciting game. Villa certainly looked like the better side for most of the match, though the Union had a couple players on the pitch who I don’t recall seeing in an MLS match. Villa will take heart in continued (after their preseason opening win over Burton Albion) strong play from new signings Holman, Karim El Ahmadi and Matt Lowton, and it seems like it has been ages since Delfouneso scored. It’s also nice to see Villa passing the ball around quickly after the drudgery of last season’s play under fired manager Alex McLeish. Next up is Chicago, who should provide much more of a test, at least depending on how many regulars get on the pitch for them. Philadelphia looked good in spots in this match, but you could tell they were struggling to keep up with the speed that Villa moved the ball around.