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Match report: Union 2-1 Schalke 04

Photo: Nicolae Stoian

In a wet and wild finish at PPL Park, rookie Chandler Hoffman scored his first goal for Philadelphia Union to earn a 2-1 win over Bundesliga foes Schalke 04.

Played in the open, attacking spirit of a friendly, Schalke had the better of the chances over the match, but the home side saved the best for last when Hoffman latched onto fellow rookie Ray Gaddis’ square ball and dispatched it beyond Lars Unnerstall, sending those who had weathered the second half downpour into euphorics.

It was the Union’s second lead of the night. Lionard Pajoy nodded home a Keon Daniel free kick in the 22nd minute, providing Philadelphia’s a deserved reward for their early attacking play.

But Schalke would not be kept out. Although Lewis Holtby rattled his penalty kick off the bar after Chase Harrison flattened Bundesliga Golden Boot winner Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Sergio Escudero’s drive in the 41st minute leveled the score, setting up Hoffman’s 88th minute winner.

First Half

Both sides came out of the gates ready to attack on Wednesday night. For the Union, John Hackworth trotted out an aggressive 4–3–3 with Pajoy and Josue Martinez deployed on either side of Danny Mwanga. The Union were poised to attack, with Kai Herdling and Keon Daniel sitting behind the strikers to provide service.

Schalke countered with Huntelaar and Teemu Pukki being served by Raul, in his last match for the Champions League side, alongside the dangerous Holtby in midfield.

Schalke took the immediate initiative in the 3rd minute when Pukki burst in behind the Union defense to force a fingertip save from Harrison. Next, Marco Hoger was given too much time when he served into the box, where the flying Huntelaar forced Harrison into a reflex save, pushing the effort over the bar.

The Union grew as the half progressed though, with Martinez, Mwanga and Herdling all looking lively and eager on the ball. Mwanga had the first chance for the Union in the 17th minute when he tracked down a loose ball, holding off a defender before blazing his shot just wide of the near post with Unnerstall beaten. Next, Gaddis fought off the challenge of Escudero to send a teasing ball into the box, where US international Jermaine Jones managed to get a toe in and clear the danger with Mwanga again bearing down.

The pressure was telling, and when Gabriel Farfan was fouled on the left attacking flank, Keon Daniel stood over the ball. His curling ball into the box found the head of Lionard Pajoy, whose redirection flew past Unnerstall before the keeper could react.

Schalke reacted quickly, attacking straight through the heart of defense. Holtby featured prominently in their best moves as he released Huntelaar, whose chip was nicely gathered by Harrison.

But the Union looked dangerous on the counterattack. Josue Martinez had Astuto Uchida spinning in circles before unleashing a rasping drive that Unnerstall did well to beat away.

Schalke was the next to attack, but it would cost them their top scorer when Huntelaar challenged for a cross in the box. Flying off his line, Harrison mistimed his punch, flattening the Dutchman and sending Holtby to the penalty spot. Harrison guessed correctly, but Holtby overhit his penalty, which smashed off the crossbar, then down off the goal line and high into the air for Harrison to claim.

It was a let off for the Union, but Schalke continue to press forward looking for an opener. In the 41st minute, it was Holtby again dictating play at the top of the Union box. When he failed to find a shooting angle, he laid the ball off for the onrushing Escudero, who smashed his shot into the bottom, near corner of Harrison’s net to level the score.

Second Half

Coming out for the second half, the Union rang the changes, bringing on eight new players as they looked to earn a result with their youngsters on the pitch. The 4–3–3 formation was retained with Hoffman, Jack McInerney and Antoine Hoppenot making up the striking trio, while homegrown talents Zach Pfeffer and Cristhian Hernandez roamed the midfield in front of Amobi Okugo.

Unlike the first half where Schalke had the early chances, the Union were quick out of the gate with all three strikers combining to put Hoppenot in on Unnerstall, though his shot spun wide of the Schalke keeper’s back post. In the center of the midfield, Okugo began well, picking up where the excellent Brian Carroll had left off in breaking up play and quickly starting the counterattack. With Pfeffer as his preferred target, the pair worked out of some tight spaces to keep the Union going forward in the early minutes of the second half.

With the Union pushing for a match winner, a few mistakes began to creep into their play. First Williams, and then Lopez, turned the ball over in dangerous areas. Okugo was on the scene both times to snuff out the danger, but Schalke’s pressure was beginning to wear down the Union. With Huntelaar and Raul out of the match, Holtby became the primary catalyst for the offense, looking to play in Pukki at every opportunity.

As the half wore on, the Union continued to absorb pressure, sitting deep as Schalke grew in confidence. The Germans nearly made inroads in the 62nd minute when Holtby and Pukki combined to set up Ciprian Marica, who had replaced Huntelaar, but Marica’s shot was tame and easily held by second half substitute Chris Konopka.

Minutes later, Konopka was called on to make a much more challenging save when substitute Jose Jurado slid a ball into the path of the slicing Holtby. In alone with the keeper, he fired low and to the far post, but Konopka was quicker, diving to his left to smother the chance.

It was all hands on deck when Uchida was the next to have a crack at the Union goal, with Konopka again equal to the task. Pukki’s pace continued to trouble Valdes and Lopez when he nearly turned provider, beating the Union offside trap before squaring for Cristoph Moritz, who bungled the simple tap-in with the goal gaping.

Playing with 11 men in their own half, the Union were chasing the game, and their brief counterattacks were well looked after by the imposing pair of Jermaine Jones and Cameroon international Joel Matip at the back. But with 10 minutes to play and Schalke frustrated as the scoreline remained level, the Union began to win back the ball with Gaddis, who had reentered the game at left back, and Hoffman both making strong runs up the right flank. Neither yielded a scoring opportunity, but the runs served to provide the hosts with some confidence going forward.

In the 79th minute, the Union found a half chance on the break. After racing away from Uchida, Hoffman squared for the onrushing Jack McInerney, but the young No. 9 could only put a toe to the ball, rolling it comfortably into the waiting arms of Unnerstall.

Schalke was not finished attacking, however, and their best two chances of the half were still to come.

Pukki again was at the heart of the attack as Holtby played him in alone with another diagonal ball that cut through the Union defense. With only Konopka to beat, the Finn hesitated on the ball, and the Union keeper flew off his line, cutting off the angle and denying the Schalke striker.

In the 83rd minute, Pukki finally got the ball past Konopka, but fortunately for the Union, he saw his effort rebound off the post. Alexander Baumjohnann was the quickest to the rebound, but Valdes, who had been beaten for the first chance, slid in to block the shot.

It was Okugo who finally released the pressure valve, winning the ball in the center of the pitch before sending Jack McInerney on his way. The Union, suddenly with numbers in the attack, pressed forward. Zach Pfeffer broke through on the right flank and unleashed a cannon that was labeled for the near post, only to see Unnerstall’s fingertips push it around the post.

With both sides eyeing the clock, the Union pounced on the final chance of the match. Baumjohann went to ground under Okugo’s strong challenge. While the German’s looked to the ref for a call, the Union midfielder played a quick one-two with Hernandez before releasing Gaddis up the left wing. With the defense collapsing away from him, Gaddis took all the space that was given.

Seeing McInerney and Hoppenot driving to the back post, Chandler Hoffman cut off his run at the penalty spot. Sliding out to meet Gaddis’ low cross, Hoffman took himself away from the defense, allowing him time to turn and face goal. Quickly settling the ball, Hoffman rolled his finish beyond Unnerstall and into the side netting for his first goal at PPL Park, setting off celebrations throughout the water-logged crowd and providing the Union with some much needed momentum going into Sunday’s grudge match against the New York Red Bulls.

Philadelphia Union

Harrison (Konopka ’45); Gaddis (Lopez ’45), Williams (McLaughlin ’63), Valdes, G. Farfan (Gaddis ’74); Carroll (Okugo ’45), Herdling (Pfeffer ’45), Daniel (Hernandez ’45); Pajoy (Hoppenot ’45), Mwanga (Hoffman ’45), Martinez (McInerney ’45)

Schalke 04

Unnerstall; Uchida, Jones, Matip, Escudero; Moritz (Kluge ’72), Hoger (Hoodland ’45), Holtby, Raul (Jurado ’45); Huntelaar (Marica ’40 Baumjohann ’65), Pukki

Scoring Summary

22 – Philadelphia: Pajoy (Daniel)
41 – Schalke: Escudero (Holtby)
88 – Philadelphia (Gaddis)

Discipline Summary

60 – Philadelphia: McInerney (Caution)


  1. James "4-3-3" Forever says:

    I would love to see us try a 4-3-3 in following weeks. Give me a midfield/attack of:
    Gomez – Carroll – Daniel
    Martinez – Mwanga – Marfan
    And I would be happy with that, win or lose. That midfield has PLENTY of defensive chops, and all three of those players can be a calming presence on the ball capable of one touch passes.
    That attack is full of speed and skill. Having Marfan or Martinez running at the defense from a wide position with Mwanga sniffing around the box and I would be happy.

  2. Are there any pictures or hightlights anywhere?

  3. Pleasantly surprised with last night’s result. Our young lads are driven and have a fire in their belly. I’ve seen the attacking flair up close at the New England reserve game and now this friendly win adds to confidence of the young guns. I’m sure that I would not be alone in handing over the keys to this youthful core and take the wild ride of high and lows that would come with playing the kids. In the long run, the club will be better off IMHO.

  4. I’m telling you, there are no video highlights because this game never happened. Pajoy scored? Union taking shots from distance? 3 forwards?? I’m telling you, the Union made up this whole story and fed it to the media. The game never happened….

    Back to the 6-3-1 for the Dead Bulls

  5. The problem with this is that now Nowak will feel justified in starting Pajoy for the next 10 games. I’m sure he sees this as vindication for refusing to bench him and the offense will go back to their anemic play.

  6. Glad i went down to the park last night! Best the U have played this season. Hopefully this will give them a boost for Sunday’s match.

  7. Some of the ‘subs’ showed that they can perform and should play more, especially if starters don’t perform.
    Great match; great web chat during the game, great memories!

  8. 1) Glad we won, we need the confidence after the start we’ve had.
    2) The fact that the union still aren’t broadcasting these games themselves is horrible. Internet connection + Web cam= a lot of happy fans who can’t make it to these games. Its not hard to figure out how to do this.
    3) This proves that Pajoy is more then just a ball watcher / chaser. He needs more help up top and good things will come.
    4) (Ohhhh) Danny Mwanga needs to see the pitch (PERIOD) let the kid play he needs his confidence back.
    5) Im kinda ashamed that we sent one of their players to a hospital w/ a concussion. Never a good thing to have that during a friendly.
    6) Will this creativity carry over into sundays match? I doubt it. Nowak will be back to his usual dictator-ly ways and im sure all creativity will be extinguished. Good luck getting him to play a 4-3-3 im still not sure how it happend for this friendly was this Hackworth’s decision? if so hes already shown that he knows more about this team the nowak does. BENCH NOWAK NOT MWANGA.

    Lesson of this game we could be great we show we have the talent even in our young guys. This shows that our coaching staff is lining our team up wrong and if they change things a little bit we might actually have a shot this season.

    • Yeah, agree with you on all points. Pajoy can contribute if he has the help. Nowak probably has these guys so confused they don’t know which way to face.

    • Also, however, lets remember this is a friendly, with a team that coming of their season; a team that traveled thousands of miles. Its a good boost of moral, but I don’t think we can stand up to the “real” Shalke. 😉

      • Defintiely not. They were jet-lagged and slow and still, really, dominated much of the match. But a win is a win, and this showed that the attacking style can be effective even against a skilled opponent.

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