Union vs. Real Madrid: All Eyes on Philadelphia
Saturday night was another blazing hot evening in the City of Philadelphia. Around 7:30pm South Philly was buzzing! The Phillies had just wrapped up a win over the San Diego Padres at Citizens Bank Park, Rihanna was about to kick off a mega concert at the Wells Fargo Center, and over 57,000 fans were packing into Lincoln Financial Field to witness a friendly match between world futbol powerhouse Real Madrid, and the hometown Philadelphia Union. The eyes of the soccer world were also focused on Philly for this big-time match up as Real Madrid sent (and played) first team players like Kaka and La Liga’s leading scorer, Cristiano Ronaldo.
Outside, diehard fans of both clubs made their allegiances known. Wearing their team colors and jerseys, and waiving flags from numerous countries, fans chanted fight songs and trash talked with gusto.
The temperature in Philadelphia was still in the high 90’s as the players warmed up on the field and the stands slowly filled.
Just before 9pm the players were announced and the game began. After resting many starters against Everton FC earlier in the week, the Union again had the first team on the pitch for this match, including starting GK Faryd Mondragon in net.
After holding their own against Everton FC from start to finish on Wednesday, and eventually winning 1-0, Philadelphia did not find similar success in the opening minutes against Real Madrid. Two miscues on defensive quickly led to a second minute goal by Jose Maria Callejon to put Real Madrid up 1-0. Just nine minutes later, Mesut Ozil added a goal and the shell-shocked Union, and their fans, found themselves down 2-0.
It appeared that the rout was on and the Union would be totally outmatched. The fans of Real Madrid increased their noise level and let the Union supporters know that the outcome was no longer in question.The score, however, did not stop the Sons of Ben and the rest of the Philly faithful from voicing their continued support to the Union players, and letting the Real Madrid fans know the match was far from being decided. It was a
classic soccer atmosphere.
The Union settled down after the two early goals and played well for the remainder of the first half. The second half kicked off with Real Madrid inserting many of their stars including Kaka and Ronaldo (to a bevy of cheers and jeers).
Philadelphia quickly made several substitutions as well, inserting Zac MacMath in goal and getting top reserves Jack McInerney, Danny Mwanga, Roger Torres, and Michael Farfan into the match.
The Union looked like a different team in the second half, pushing the action and not backing down. If Philadelphia’s young stars were in awe of playing against some of the world’s top players, it didn’t show.
In the 80th minute, Farfan found the back of the net for the home team and the stadium erupted with cheers. There was hope; could the Union pull of a major upset? They had their chances. The last ten minutes (and three minutes of stoppage time) were fast and furious. Torres and McInerney both had great scoring opportunities but were unable to capitalize and MacMath blocked a free kick from Ronaldo (as fans chanted “You’re not Messi!” at him).
When it was all said and done, the Union fell by a very respectable 2-1 score. As is customary in the soccer world, several of the players exchanged jerseys with the Real Madrid stars before leaving the field of play.
The game ended at the same time as the Rihanna concert across the street leading to more traffic gridlock after the game but for soccer fans who got to witness this big time match up, it was certainly worth the extra time on their drive home.
You can full the full photo slide show and gallery below: