Union Fight Valiantly, Fall 2-1 to Real Madrid

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 23: Jose Maria Callejon #21 of Real Madrid heads the ball while being defended against by Gabriel Farfan #15 and Keon Daniel #17 of the Philadelphia Union at Lincoln Financial Field on July 23, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

In front of a crowd of more than 57,000 at Lincoln Financial Field, the Philadelphia Union shared the field with worldwide stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Pepe. They ended up losing the game by a score of 2-1 to Spanish powerhouses Real Madrid, but in the end, the event was truly a complete success.

Madrid began the game in the best way possible, as a long pass from Xabi Alonso in the second minute was not dealt with by the Union defense. It made its way to Jose Maria Callejon, who slotted it past Union captain and goalkeeper Faryd Mongradon. Madrid would double their lead less than ten minutes later, when Karim Benzema dealt a beautiful ball to Mesut Ozil. The German split two defenders and beat Mondragon as well for the 2-0 lead.

Philadelphia enjoyed several quality chances, however. Sheanon Williams would have had a goal if he had merely stuck his foot out a bit further to finish a cross in front of goal, but the chance went begging. Carlos Ruiz had a one-on-one with Iker Casillas in the 19th minute, but the Guatemalan took a terrible touch trying to settle the ball, and the Spanish goalkeeper grabbed the ball.

In the second half, both teams made a number of changes. Cristiano Ronaldo, Fabio Coentrao, and Kaka entered the match for Real Madrid, while Roger Torres, Danny Mwanga, and Michael Farfan came in for the Union. It was Philadelphia who had more chances and appeared to have the upper hand in the second half, but they struggled to finish their chances.

Finally, in the 80th minute, Michael Farfan took a pass in the box from Mwanga and attempted an audacious chip shot at Madrid's goal. The ball elegantly looped over goalkeeper Tomas Mejias, cutting Madrid's lead to 2-1. While the goal may not have gone in had Casillas still been in the game, the Union nonetheless had something to show for their fine play in the second half.

Madrid appeared to be reeling for the final ten minutes after the goal. The Union had a few more good chances to equalize and send the game to penalties in the closing minutes. Torres's powerful shot went just wide in the 90th minute, and Jack McInerney had a low, well-placed shot saved by Tomas Mejias in stoppage time. The Union would end up losers on the field, but they were true winners in terms of the event as a whole. The strong atmosphere and exciting match will raise the Union's profile in the city and the experience gained by young players such as Zach Pfeffer and Jimmy McLaughlin, who both came into the match late in the second half, will prove to be priceless in the long run.

The Union will now return to MLS action this Friday, July 29, when they host the defending champion Colorado Rapids at PPL Park. Madrid ends its participation in the World Football Challenge with a perfect 3-0 record. They will now continue their preseason, which includes a trip to China and a match in Berlin.

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