CHESTER, PA -- An uniformed observer would have been forgiven for thinking that this game played between a Mexican and an American club was the real Superliga Final. In a friendly that was anything but, the Union defeated Mexican powerhouse Club Deportivo de Guadelajara, commonly known as "Chivas," 1-0 on a goal from youngster Jack McInerney in the 48th minute.
If the fact that this game was a friendly meant that these teams were meant to sit back and play conservatively, the players obviously missed the memo. Perhaps the nationalist undercurrent of the notorious Mexican-American rivalry injected an extra spice into the mix, but there was little friendliness to be had between Philadelphia and club Deportivo de Guadelajara.
Both sides came ready to play, and it was Chivas who created the first real chance. Just a pair of ticks in, sloppy defense from the home side found Omar Bravo alone on the ball with Union keeper Brad Knighton out of position. Keeping his compsure, the striker attempted an audacious overhead kick, but the ball ended up just over the bar, much to the relief of the Union defense.
Three minutes later, Philadelphia created a thrilling chance of their own. Midfielder Andrew Jacobson's cutting through ball sliced its way through the Chivas defense and into the path of an onrushing Danny Mwanga, but Chivas keeper Luis Michel was able to throw himself onto the ball and deny the rookie.
It was then back to Chivas for the attacks. In a space of two minutes, Juan Diego Gonzalez was able to deny the excellent Omar Bravo twice on clear cut chances, intercepting a well-played through ball with a flying kick, and dispossessing the Mexican star in the box with a precisely timed sliding tackle.
Quick, furious play from both sides opened up chances. Bravo was dangerous and effective throughtout the half, and the Union saw several good chances go begging, including a shot from Jordan Harvey on the edge of the area that Chivas keeper Luis Michel had trouble holding onto.
The game was as physical as it was competitive. Omar Bravo was booked in the 15th for dissent following a foul from Danny Califf on Marco Fabian. Harvey picked up a yellow card for a reckless challenge in the 40th minute.
The Union came out for the second half with nine changes, and it paid off immediately. In a recreation of their equalizer in New England just four days previously, Justin Mapp sprung the offside trap for Jack McInerney, who coolly slotted home to give Philadelphia the 1-0 lead in the 48th.
And just three minutes after the goal, Roger Torres nearly doubled the lead with a long-range strike from distance, but it went over the bar and failed to trouble Chivas keeper Sergio Arias, who had come on at half.
Somewhat bizzarely, Chivas midfielder Dinicio Escalante, who had beed subbed off in the first half, re-entered the match at half. The referee realized the transgression in the 56th minute, and showed Escalante the third yellow card of the game, before making Chivas substitute him out. Again.
New Union signing Sheanon Williams also saw yellow in the 66th for a reckless challenge a few yards outside his own penalty area. Between the official cautions, the multitude of fouls, and the large number of un-whistled incidents, it had become clear that this game wasn't being played to the highest ideals of Olympian spirit.
Chivas lived up to their reputation as a difficult team to play against, while the Union's usual industriousness was on full display. Even the River End was as vocal as any league match, and there was ample evidence of Chivas' support whenever the visitors had a chance.
Union fans will have been excited by the late appearance of trialist Zachary Pfeffer. Just 15 years old and an alumnus of famed local youth club FC Delco, his presence demonstrated the Union's focus on developing talent. The youngster showed plenty of enthusiasm and composure on the ball, but was perhaps a little too easily caught out of position.
For more on Major League Soccer, visit Goal.com's MLS page and join Goal.com USA's Facebook fan page!