Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Manchester United tops Union in international friendly at the Linc

By John McMullen

Philadelphia (The Phanatic Magazine) - With Philadelphia bidding to host the World Cup in 2018, soccer put its best foot forward on Wednesday night when the sport's most storied team, Manchester United of the English Premier League, invaded the City of Brotherly Love and topped the MLS' Union, 1-0, in an international friendly in front of 44,213 at Lincoln Financial Field.

The Union held their own for most of the night but finally faltered in the 76th minute when Gabriel Obertan found the back of the net to lift the Red Devils to the victory.

A turnover by Union rookie midfielder Amobi Okugo allowed Danny Welbeck freedom on the right side and the Manchester native delivered a perfect pass to Obertan, who deposited the ball past goalkeeper Brian Perk.

The Union had a few chances in the closing minutes but were never able to solve Man U. netminder Tomasz Kusczak despite firing 16 shots, including five on goal, to just 11 for Man U.

United is in its preseason and the main concern for coach Sir Alex Ferguson was preparing his club for the upcoming EPL schedule while avoiding injuries. Some of the Red Devils' best players, including forward Wayne Rooney, defenders Patrice Evra and Rio Ferdinand and midfielder Ji-Sung Park, who are all recovering from World Cup play, weren't on the team's 23-man travel roster.

Legendary English midfielders Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes did make the trip, however, and faced the expansion Union, who are 4-8-2 in their inaugural MLS season.

Manchester United, meanwhile, has been in existence for 132 years, winning 18 EPL titles, four Carling Cups, three European Cups and a record 11 FA Cups. In their last 114 league matches, the Red Devils have lost just 16 times.

"For Manchester United coming in here on their preseason it's not an easy thing with these weather conditions," Union team manager Peter Nowak said. "It’s always difficult to find their rhythm. For us, we continue to grow as a team and try to find the right formula. Lately, it’s all about continuing to progress and gain experience that we can use in the second half of the [MLS] season."

Despite the cavernous difference in experience, the Union played like they belonged with the world's best and had the majority of scoring chances in a scoreless first half. In the 11th minute, Danny Mwanga's crossing pass in the box found Alejandro Moreno, but the Venezuelan's shot was weak and easily gobbled up by Kusczak.

In the 16th minute, Mwanga, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft, showed his skill by flicking the ball to himself off a thrown in before nearly striking the volley just high over the net.

Less than a minute later, Sebastien Le Toux, the Union's leading scorer who was named to the MLS All-Star team earlier in the week, just missed a header off an Eduardo Coudet crossing pass into the box.

Man U. started to make some noise from there. A poor decision by Union defender Cristian Arrieta in the 27th minute gave Obertan a lot of space but his crossing pass intended for Welbeck was cut off by starting netminder Brad Knighton.

Welbeck had another chance in the 31st minute when his volley from distance nearly hit the bottom right corner of the net, but went just wide.

The Union responded with a couple of opportunities from Le Toux. In the 33rd minute, the Frenchman squared from the top of the area but his blast was deflected away. About sixty seconds later, Le Toux chested the ball down for Moreno at the top of the box, but his shot was also deflected.

The back and fourth action continued in the 36th minute when Knighton stoned a Welbeck shot from just over 10 yards out.

Philadelphia had its best scoring chance in the first half during the 41st minute. A streaking Mwanga fed Le Toux in stride but the All-Star's left-footed kick squirted harmlessly wide on the far side.

The Union made wholesale changes for the second half bringing in frontliners Andrew Jacobson, Nick Zimmerman, Okugo and Kyle Nakazawa along with defender Toni Stahl and Perk.

“In the second half, we made some pretty big changes and gave [the younger players] invaluable experience, but the level dropped off,” action Union coach John Hackworth said. “It was somewhat to be expected because the only way they’ll learn is to be in those environments, at that speed of play, against those types of players. And yet a little bit disappointing as we expected a little more.” 

Perk was nearly tested early when Obertan narrowly missed the far post on a strike from a difficult angle to the right of the net in the 47th minute.

McInerney had a great look in the 50th minute but missed the far post on a ball into the box from Mwanga, while Zimmerman fired from distance in the 51st but Kusczak made a diving save.

Man U. made its wholesale changes in the 61st minute, Changes that included putting star Bulgarian striker Dimitar Berbatov in the contest. Nowak responded by pulling Mwanga for trialist Martin Rivas.

Berbatov quickly found the ball at his feet alone in the area during the 68th minute but the play was whistled dead due to an offside call.

A minute later Philly was knocking on the door again when Nakazawa's free kick went through traffic and found the net but Kusczak slapped it away.

“We controlled the ball well, we moved it around and we played without fear and with confidence,” Union captain Danny Califf said. “That was the big thing and probably the most impressive thing. We kept our heads up and played with confidence.”

State of the UNION:

*Man U. opened a four-city tour of North America by topping Scottish power Celtic FC 3-1 in front of 39,000-plus at Toronto's Rogers Centre on July 16. The legendary club will finish its trip by facing the Kansas City Wizards on July 25 before concluding things against the MLS All-Stars in Houston on July 28.

*This was the third visit by the Red Devils to the Linc. Man U. actually opened the stadium back on August 3, 2003 with a win over FC Barcelona in front over 68,000.

*Union defender Shea Salinas (fibula fracture) and MF Roger Torres (mild ankle sprain) both missed the contest.

*Nowak went with most of his usual starters except for goalkeeper Chris Seitz, who was given the night off in favor of Brad Knighton, and the injured Torres. Seitz also took a seat in the international friendly a week ago when the Union rode a steady performance by Knighton and Brian Perk to down Celtic, 1-0, at PPL Park in Chester. Coudet, a trialist, started at MF for Torres.

Le Toux, who earned MLS Player of the Week honors after his stoppage time penalty kick in the 95th minute lifted Philadelphia over Toronto FC last Saturday. scored the only goal in that contest.

*Perk turned 21 today.

*Union MF Stefani Miglioranzi, a Brazilian native, was monitored by a number of English clubs in the late 1990s before signing with Portsmouth in 1999. After three years at Fratton Park, he moved north to Swindon Town, where he played more than 100 games between 2002 and 2006.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wanted to read your article. I really did. But honestly, I couldn't. Why? Because you used "Man. U" in your article.

The origin of the term "Man U" is a song to insult the deceased Duncan Edwards. The Leeds fans created their own version of the song to insult all the men that died in the Munich air disaster of 1958.

Rival supporters have since adopted this term for the same use: To insult the men who died in Munich.

The song went something like this:

"Man U, Man U, went on a plane! Man U, Man U, never came back again!"

"Man U, never intended in coming home!"

Educate yourself and other journalists and commentators on ESPN.