Union match reports

Match Report: Philadelphia Union 0-2 Stoke City

On the strength of two early goals, Stoke City ran out of PPL Park comfortable 2-0 winners over the Union. With the visitors still engaging in preseason training and the hosts returning from a cross-continental trip to Vancouver, both sides were content with a slow, plodding tempo, though Stoke were the sharper when it came to the final third.

Only 4 minutes into the match, Marc Muniesa set up Michael Kightly for a volleyed finish at the back post for winger Michael Kightly. Stoke continued to control the match and US international Brek Shea grabbed the second when Kightly turned provider, setting the table for Shea touch home.

Unfortunately for Stoke and plenty of American supporters in the crowd, manager Mark Hughes was forced to withdraw Shea after only 33 minutes. Union reserve fullback Matt Kassel did the damage with a crunching tackle and was lucky to stay on the field, with only a yellow card to his name.

First Half

New signing Oka Nikolov made his first appearance for the Union, backstopping a starting XI made up almost entirely of players who do not see regular minutes and had 11 starts on the season between them. Union head coach John Hackworth said after the game, “This was a good opportunity for us to give guys a run out and make sure that they have the sensations and rhythm of starting in a game. Everything from listening to the National Anthem, shaking hands [with the opposition] all those kinds of things are really important for players just so that they know how to prepare themselves.”

In defense, Fabinho and Kassel started outside of Chris Albright and Aaron Wheeler, who provided the match-winning assist as a forward in Vancouver. Both Michael Lahoud and Kleberson returned from injury to sit behind Roger Torres, while Leo Fernandes and Don Anding worked the flanks. Antoine Hoppenot was selected as a lone striker.

As if it were a training drill, Stoke confidently knocked the ball around as the Union fell back into a defensive shell. And by the fourth minute, the visitors were comfortably in the ascendancy.

With Kassel dropping off of Muniesa, the left back had plenty of time to loft his cross to Kightly, who came racing in from the right wing. Forgotten by Fabinho, Kightly smashed his first-time volley passed a helpless Nikolov to give Stoke the lead before the Union had managed more than a handful of touches.

The chances kept coming for Stoke when Wheeler lost track of Cameron Jerome’s run as the striker slid outside of the box, but his shot was wide of the mark. Jerome did better in the 15th minute after a mistake from Fabinho allowed Stoke to counter with numbers. But Nikolov held his ground at the near post, blocking Jerome’s shot with his right foot.

Minutes later, the Union defense again collapsed on itself and Stoke grabbed a second. Switching wings, Kightly ran at Kassel and when the defender retreated, he clipped the ball to the back post. Easily racing passed Fabinho, Shea had the simplest of tap-ins to give his team a commanding advantage.

Left on island up front, Hoppenot did his best to hold up play and won a number of fouls and corner kicks with his quick bursts in between Stoke’s towering defenders. Hoppenot drew the match’s first yellow card in the 26th minute when he was scythed down by Ryan Shawcross at the edge of the box, but Fernandes was unable to make anything of the dangerous free kick.

As Stoke countered, Shea took flight up the left flank only to be clattered into by Kassel. Both high and hard, the tackle was well out of place in a midweek friendly and though the referee only saw fit to caution the Union player, the Stoke players were livid as they watched their teammate limp down the tunnel, while the PPL Park crowd paid their respects to the American Gold Cup hero, serenading him with applause and chants of “USA! USA!”

Stoke City manager Mark Hughes said after the game of the injury to Shea, “Yeah he is going to be out for a number of weeks at least. Obviously we hope it is nothing more serious, but certainly he looks like he has done damage to his knee ligaments.”

Second Half

With 45 minutes in the books, John Hackworth brought on an entirely new side for the second half. Chris Konopka filled in behind the regular back four, while Michael Farfan joined Brian Carroll, sitting behind Keon Daniel as he had against Vancouver. Conor Casey took up the role of lone striker with Sebastien Le Toux and Danny Cruz running the wings.

But much as they had in the first half, Stoke played keep away for the early minutes of the second half. With Farfan operating out of the box-to-box role, he began to provide the Union with a player capable of possessing the ball and spurring the attack as he looked to bring in Le Toux and Daniel once the Union tracked down possession.

Comfortable sitting back and clearing the ball to touch, Stoke were content to defend a barrage of long throw-ins from Sheanon Williams. Their size advantage was telling, but in the 54th minute, the Union nearly had the ball in the back of the net. Amobi Okugo rose highest to flick his header towards goal, but when Le Toux’s follow up header beat substitute goalkeeper Jack Butland, he was standing well offsides and the play was brought back.

Unlike in the first half, where Kleberson and Lahoud had struggle to cope with Stoke’s seeking passes, Farfan and Carroll proved a tougher defensive pairing.

Farfan and Daniel combined to snuff out a Stoke attack in the 56th minute, allowing Casey to drive at goal. Unfortunately, he was unable to return the ball to Farfan as he raced towards goal, with Stoke conceding 1 of 9 corner kicks for the match.

With the Union charging at Butland, it seemed that a goal was coming, but the final pass eluded them at each turn. First Casey was unable to return Cruz’s pass at full flight before Farfan’s long ball for Casey was picked off by Buckland.

A quick counterattack in the 69th minute nearly sprung substitute Kenwyne Jones, but Ray Gaddis did ever so well to hold his ground and win the physical confrontation, despite giving away 5 inches to the powerful striker.

Substitute Peter Crouch had Stoke’s best chance of the second half moments later when he was played in on Konopka, but the offside flag saved his blushes, after he swung and missed at his tap in chance.

The Union had their best chance to cut the lead in half in the 70th minute, but Le Toux pushed his shot directly at Butland. Farfan began the move, playing Casey into space. The striker’s touch was heavy, but so too was the defender’s, leaving Le Toux with an open look on goal from the center of the box. Buckland parried only as far as Farfan, who had continued his run, but Le Toux was unable to get a toe to the low cross Farfan sent across the face of goal.

Playing high up the field, Daniel did well to knock down a driven ball in the 75th minute, laying it at Farfan’s feet. Spying Casey over the top, Farfan played the striker into space, but the play was called back for offsides.

Jones and substitute Peter Crouch almost combined again to ice the match as the clock wore towards 90 minutes, but after a quick 1-2 sent Crouch into space, Konopka did well to come off his line and make the save on the lanky striker.

The Union now return their attention to league play and Saturday’s game at PPL Park against Chicago at 8 pm.

Philadelphia Union
Oka Nikolov (Chris Konopka ’46); Matt Kassel (Sheanon Williams ’46), Aaron Wheeler (Amobi Okugo ’46), Chris Albright (Jeff Parke ’46), Fabinho (Ray Gaddis ’46); Michael Lahoud (Danny Cruz ’46), Kleberson (Michael Farfan ’46), Roger Torres (Brian Carroll ’46), Don Anding (Keon Daniel ’46); Antoine Hoppenot (Conor Casey ’46), Leo Fernandes (Sebastien Le Toux ’46)

Stoke City
Thomas Sorensen (Jack Butland ’46); Robert Huth (Mathew Etherington ’68), Marc Muniesa (Jonathan Walters ’68), Ryan Shawcross (Geoff Cameron ‘ 68), Marc Wilson (Florent Cuvelier ’89), Ryan Shotton, Brek Shea (Erik Pieters ’33), Glenn Whelan (Charlie Adam ’46), Stephen N’Zonzi (Wilson Palacios ’43), Michael Kightly (Peter Crouch ’46), Cameron Jerome (Kenwyne Jones ’46)
Unused substitute: Jordan Keane

Scoring Summary
4 – Stoke City: Kightly (Muniesa)
19 – Stoke City: Shea (Kightly)

Disciplinary Summary
26 – Stoke City: Shawcross (caution)
27 – Union: Kassel (caution)



  1. Andy Muenz says:

    Watching it live, it looked like both Shea and Kassel were sliding and going for the ball. Unfortunately, when I went to check out the replay on the feed last night, the Union blacked out the play, so we can’t get a second look at it.

    • I saw it live too, and I thought the challenge was reckless and deserving of a red card in any game, let alone a friendly. Sucks that these injuries often happen in pre-season friendlies when lesser players are trying to make a statement. Hopefully Brek can get back to form quickly – I think Hughes was beginning to think highly of him.

  2. The level of defensive depth on this team is just insulting. It’s not even that we have bad depth, we have no depth. A midfielder playing RB, and a striker playing CB? Along side a better-as-a-LM LB and a 45 year old CB?

    That just negligent. That’s an inability to put together the simple basics of a team.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Although Kassel was playing RB with the second team, we do have depth at RB, since we all know Gaddis would be put there as a perfectly good alternative.

    • Aaron Wheeler actually has played a lot of CB in his career and has been doing so in practices according to Hack. Last night was the perfect game to put him and see what he could do. I see no problem in that.

    • The starting back four resembled the Island of Misfit Toys. No one was in their natural positions and they had to learn how to play together vs. most of Stoke’s starting XI. However, it was the right call to play them all given what Hack had available to him.

  3. Fabinho was aweful; had no clue how to defend. Both goals were scored due to his lack of awareness and defensive aggression. Keon was the worst player in the 2nd half. Thought Gaddis had a great half; made some key great tackles. It is also clear that we don’t gave to worry if Zac gets injured. I have now seen Konopka several times this year and think that he is a great goalie.

    • In Portuguese, Fabinho means “asleep at the back post”.

      At least, we now know that Gaddis is the best left back on our roster…for whatever that’s worth.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      +1 on Gaddis. As we were leaving, I commented to my wife that I thought he was the best player for the Union last night.

  4. I am surprised Jack Mac didn’t play, seeing that
    A) He was one of the few starters who didn’t need the rest
    B) He could actually use the playing time to get back into the rhythm.
    Also how many USMNT nerds hate Leo Fernandez now.
    I imagine when Jurgen Klinsmann heard about Brek Shea’s injury brooding in a darkened room, hands folded in consternation a single tear rolling down his cheek swearing the oath, “Fuck the Philadelphia Union I am never picking one of their players again.”

  5. Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

    Someone needs to make a .gif of Gaddis monstering Kenwyne Jones. If the feed still exists. Fantastic play.

  6. Can someone tell me the appeal of Leo Fernandez? I don’t get it. What is his potential upside?

    • I agree I think he is pretty slow to play forward or wing

    • He fits Hacks “see I really do like hispanic players” point he has to make.

      • Dan Walsh says:

        He’s not Hispanic! He’s Latino! Brazilian is not Hispanic, but it is Latino!

        To paraphrase what many Brazilians would say to that. 😉

      • Uh so that is it?
        Because I don’t know yet why he is on the field. Especially since his job description is the same as He-Who-Cannot-Be-Named

  7. The defensive depth on this team is a joke, I mean really come on. But honestly it’s worrisome, what happens if any of the starters goes down? I thought Fabinho was at least adding some depth, but my god he looked awful. What I wouldn’t give for a quality CB and LB on this team…..oh wait…..
    Fabinho, Lahoud, Kleberson and Fernandes all looked brutally bad last night. Daniel was his normal bad self, and Cruz just looks comical playing amidst good midfielders.
    At least Marfan and Torres looked strong, and so did Carroll surprisingly.

  8. The first half was David vs. Goliath – I give those boys a ton of credit. They looked terrified at the beginning and fought through it.

  9. Matt Kassel is an idiot. That’s it. You especially don’t hurt your OWN MNT guys in a FRIENDLY! It’s not like he’s gonna play for the Union ever! He wouldnt of come in like that on Donovan! Nothing more, he is an idiot.

  10. Preface: I have not watched the match nor was I present at the match.

    What is wrong with Hack? That starting 11 was atrocious. Instead of using this game as a justification for his regular starting 11, he should have used this opportunity to try out a nice mixture of vets and youth and sub accordingly as the match progressed. I’m no coach, but at least I’m not a yesum master sir robot like “coach” Hack.

    • I believe that technical term is called being thrown under a bus. A mixure of starters and vets would have shown how far the bench players have grown in relation to the starters. but together they were kind of doomed to fail…
      and that cardboard Chris Albrite cutout was a bit much tho

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