July 21 By Dave Zeitlin
Philadelphia Union didn’t win the game. But they did win some respect.
Playing against Manchester United in an international friendly at Lincoln Financial Field, the expansion Union went toe-to-toe with the English giants before suffering a 1-0 defeat.
The renowned Man U, recognized worldwide as one of the ultimate soccer clubs, did not bring all of its best players for its North American Tour, which included Wednesday night’s contest in front of 44,213 fans. But the Union didn’t play all of its stars for a full 90 minutes, either, and still very much held their own.
“We came out and tried to play the kind of soccer we do every day,” Union assistant coach John Hackworth said. “We felt like we showed a little bit of class in there as well.”
More like a lot of class. After a tentative opening 10 minutes, the Union began to attack the stars in red, generating numerous scoring opportunities and surprising the pro-Manchester crowd.
But after subbing most of its starters out at halftime, the Union lost some of its luster. And in the 76th minute, a giveaway from Philadelphia rookie Amobi Okugo resulted in a goal from Manchester United’s Gabriel Obertan on a great feed from fellow striker Danny Welbeck.
“We put in a lot of young guys to give them invaluable experience,” Hackworth said. “The level dropped off, which is somewhat to be expected because it’s the only way they were [going to] learn – by being in those environments at that speed of play against those kinds of players. But it was also a little bit disappointing because we expect a little more.”
The Union second-stringers nearly found the equalizer in the 89th minute when Nick Zimmerman turned the corner right on the end line and crossed it in front to Andrew Jacobson. It looked like Jacobson sent the feed high over the box, but he said later that the ball was tackled away and he never got his foot on it. Either way, it was a terrific opportunity to walk away with a hard-earned draw.
“Once I saw Nick beat that guy going down the line, I knew he would cross it across the face,” said Jacobson, a midfielder who has been in and out of the starting lineup this season. “I thought I had it but a guy came across and tackled it away. It was a great tackle; I was already celebrating.”
Goal or not, Jacobson received the highest praise after the game when legendary Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson specifically called him out as a player that “caused us a bit of bother at times.”
“That’s a great thing to hear,” Jacobson said. “He’s probably one of the best managers ever. … He’s got a great eye.”
Danny Mwanga surely impressed the United manager, as well.
The Union rookie, who may end up in Europe later in his career if he keeps playing the way he has, showed tremendous composure in the box, turning and firing a couple of hard shots on net.
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