Summer Friendly / Union

Pumas UNAM make Philly debut this Saturday at PPL Park

Photo: Casey Pladus

World Cup qualifiers aren’t the only international matchups that area soccer fans have to look forward to this week, as the Philadelphia Union hosts Pumas UNAM of Liga MX.

Saturday’s match at PPL Park, scheduled for 5 p.m., will introduce Philly soccer fans to one of Mexico’s most popular and celebrated clubs. The Mexico City-based team traveled to Philadelphia on Thursday following their 2-1 win over the Carolina Railhawks of NASL.

This will be the first time that Pumas play in Philadelphia. For many of the players, it will be their first time visiting the city.

“I have heard about the city in movies,” forward Eduardo Herrera said.

But while the team might seem unfamiliar with the city, the Union, and the chilly climate this time of year, there is one thing they know for certain.

They are here to play.

In fact, the entire first team has traveled for the game. Head coach Juan Antonio Torres Servin said he brought the first team for a reason.

“We brought the first team, so the first team will definitely be playing,” Servin said. “We think it will be a difficult game. The intensity will definitely be there especially with the US and Mexico team where there is a rivalry. I think it’s going to be an intense game.”

Having won seven first division championships and four international titles, Pumas certainly aren’t new to the soccer scene. The team sits in sixth place in Mexico’s first division.

“Being one of the top teams in Mexico, we want to win. We want to continue our reputation of being one of the better teams,” Servin said. “At the same time, we also want to learn to adapt to a new style of opponent. Being more versatile and branching out is a plus.”

A winning score isn’t the only outcome that the club hopes to accomplish with Saturday’s friendly. According to Goyo Perez, founder of Cutting Edge Sports and Entertainment and Pumas’ representative for international tours and games, the club seeks to gain more exposure and brand recognition in the United States. Capitalizing on Mexico’s success at the Olympics, Perez said he hopes to “add exposure to Pumas’ brand and to grow the team’s presence in the North East region where we see a market for them.”

The match will also have personal benefits for the players themselves. The friendly also exposes the players to Major League Soccer, a league that many of the players see as growing.

“I particularly like this league,” Herrera said. “I like the way it is growing. I think as time goes on it will continue to grow and it will be a top league soon. Maybe later in my career I would like to play on a MLS team.”

Pumas will practice Friday at University of Pennsylvania in preparation for Saturday’s match. The team’s outdoor practice was cancelled Thursday due to inclement weather. But the team is optimistic that the chilly weather won’t deter them on Saturday.

“We are not used to playing in these conditions, but we also played in North Carolina when it was cold,” Herrera said. “We as professionals try to get used to the climate and I don’t think that it will be a big problem.”

Despite the chilly weather conditions, the team is excited for Saturday’s matchup.

“I saw pictures of the stadium and pictures of the fans,” Herrera said. “It seems that people are getting involved in the team and it’s a good place to play soccer.”

A very balanced Pumas team will arrive at PPL Park Saturday night. Local fans, however, will most likely recognize Javier Cortés, the 24-year-old midfielder who helped Mexico win a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics. Cortés is no stranger to the back of the net. The midfielder, who leads the team in both goals and shots taken this season, solidified Mexico’s win over Japan in the semifinals of the Olympics by scoring in stoppage time. While another player was selected only to be injured before the games commenced, Cortés is the lone Pumas player to compete in the 2012 Olympics.

5 Comments

  1. neck label says:

    they drew over 8k against the railhawks. using that as the under / over for the match at ppl,
    i say under. but i wish it was the over.

  2. From looking at StubHub, there were a lot less tickets for sale than there were a week ago. Mine just sold this AM.

  3. I’m sorry I’m going to miss the game but it’s time for some spring break skiing!!!

  4. I’m going, and took the complimentary extra tix for the weather bonus. Should be a fun atmosphere, although may not be that pro-Union. Would love to see us put out a quality side against their first team. We’ll see…

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