Photo: Paul Rudderow
A second half Michael Farfan goal was enough to see Philadelphia Union edge past Mexican side Pumas 1-0 in a friendly at PPL Park on Saturday afternoon.
Farfan settled a chippy affair with a cool finish after some good work from Sebastien Le Toux and Aaron Wheeler midway through the second period.
“It was a great finish by him, very calm and collected,” Wheeler said after the game.
The friendly gave Union coach John Hackworth the opportunity to give extended runs to players that haven’t featured much or at all this season, including Chris Konopka, Leo Fernandes, Jimmy McLaughlin, Cristhian Hernandez, Roger Torres, Aaron Wheeler, and Greg Jordan. But with a number of injuries throughout the squad, many first team members saw the field as well.
The match went on as an unconfirmed report Saturday claimed exiled midfielder Freddy Adu has finally signed with Bahia, even though Union officials said there was nothing new on the situation.
The friendly turned out to be far from friendly, with six yellow cards (each team had three apiece), and tempers flared early. In just the second minute, Sheanon Williams reacted angrily to a challenge on the right touchline, and players came together before being separated by the match officials.
The early altercation turned out to be the most exciting action of the opening 25 minutes, as neither side could get hold of the game. Chris Konopka easily caught a handful of crosses, and Antoine Hoppenot found a little space behind the Pumas backline. The first shot of the game, however, didn’t come until the 25th minute, when Eduardo Herrera headed over the bar from six yards out.
The Herrera header started a good spell for Pumas. They soon found room down the right side when Emilio Orrantia skipped past Ray Gaddis before firing just over the bar from the corner of the area. David Cabarera was next up on 33 minutes when he fired a hard shot from distance that was straight at Konopka.
The Union would finally muster some offense shortly after that when Gaddis found room on the overlap down the left side. He fired a good low ball to Cristhian Hernandez, but the winger’s shot was well saved by the feet of Pumas goalkeeper Alejandro Palacios from 12 yards.
The closing minutes of the half would see Pumas striker Martin Bravo with two good chances to give his team the lead. First an open header from eight yards was well wide of Konopka’s goal. Bravo then got behind the Union defense through a good diagonal ball, but a recovering challenge from Amobi Okugo deflected his shot wide.
The start of the second half saw Greg Jordan, Aaron Wheeler, and Brian Carroll introduced in place of Jeff Parke, Okugo, and McLaughlin. After starting their standard back four, the Union deployed Williams and Jordan at center back with Michael Lahoud at right back and Gaddis continuing to deputize on the left.
Pumas started the second half strongly, and a series of corner kicks saw the Union defending deep. But even a good spell of possession in the Union half saw few chances for the Mexican side and Konopka was hardly troubled.
The Union came back into the game after a rocky first 10 minutes of the second half. After some good work from Hoppenot down the right side, the diminutive striker cut inside and rolled a perfect pass to Brian Carroll 25 yards from goal. Carroll hit a first-time screamer that was well saved by Palacios diving to his left.
Just a minute later in the 60th minute, it was Hoppenot again finding room on the right. This time his cross found an open Cristhian Hernandez at the top of the box. But Hernandez could only push a rushed shot wide right of Palacios’ goal when he really should have tested the Pumas goalkeeper.
The 63rd minute saw Le Toux, Jack McInerney, and Michael Farfan join the fray in place of Hoppenot, Hernandez, and Roger Torres. Le Toux and McInerney hooked up immediately when the Frenchman was able to play the young striker into space behind the Pumas backline. Palacios was quick off his line though, and McInerney’s chip went straight into the keeper’s outstretched hands.
With the quality of Le Toux, Marfan, and McInereny surrounding him, Wheeler grew more and more into the game as the half wore on. On 66 minutes, he found himself behind the Pumas defense, but a last ditch tackle snuffed out his shot. The ball fell to Leo Fernandes, who had McInerney wide open on the back post, but his cross just eluded the striker and the chance was gone.
The breakthrough would finally come in the 68th minute. Le Toux picked up the ball on the right side before cutting into the middle 40 yards from goal. He squared the ball for Wheeler, who held the ball up expertly, and waited for the run of Farfan to materialize. Farfan streaked down the center of the pitch and Wheeler simply rolled the ball into his path. Farfan took a great first touch to the top of the box before coolly sliding the ball to the left of Palacios into the corner of the net.
“I saw Seba get the ball and he was able to turn and play me,” Wheeler said after the game. “I heard Michael out of my left ear and just touched it over. I almost touched it a little too far, but fortunately he was able to get to it.”
Moments later it was Wheeler again trying to provide the final pass as the Union broke on the counter. His well-weighted header found the feet of McInerney on the top of the Pumas box but a last ditch tackle denied the striker a chance at goal.
The final twenty minutes would play out with few chances for either team. The Union dropped deep to defend their lead and defended well with Pumas not getting a clear opportunity at Chris Konopka’s goal.
There was no official attendance announcement, but it appeared that about a third of PPL Park was filled on a blustery March afternoon.
Union lineup: Konopka, Williams, Parke (Jordan 45′), Okugo (Carroll 45′), Gaddis, Lahoud, Torres (M. Farfan 61′), Fernandes, McLaughlin (Wheeler 45′), Hernandez (Le Toux 63′), Hoppenot (McInereny 63′)