Lionard Pajoy celebrating his 21st minute goal against FC Schalke 04. (Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Union)
Chandler Hoffman's first professional goal may go down as one of the most exciting of his young life, as the rookie striker slotted home a 12-yard shot to give the Philadelphia Union a 2-1 win over FC Schalke 04.
Schalke played a strong lineup consisting of many of their starters, including Raul and star striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. With the game being hyped as a potential enticement for Raul, who supposedly was playing his last game for Schalke and in Europe, 7,464 people showed up to the Wednesday night game.
The home team opened up the scoring in the 21st minute through a header by Lionard Pajoy. The much maligned Colombian striker was given a perfect assist by Keon Daniel, who floated in a 35-yard freekick to Pajoy inside of the Schalke 18.
Chants of "DO THAT ON SUNDAY!" broke out from the River End, as the Sons of Ben attending the match tried to convey their distaste for the offensive short comings thus far this season out of the Union's starting striker.
Philadelphia employed a 4-3-3 formation for much of the game, playing an aggressive and offensive style much unseen since the end of the team's inaugural 2010 year in Major League Soccer. Pajoy (left), Josue Martinez (right) and Danny Mwanga (center) started up top, with Kai Herdling, Brian Carroll and Daniel making up the midfield behind them.
The Union managed 11 shots, two on target, in the first half, taking risks with long range attempts that they had not tried during MLS regular season play.
The Bundesliga club nearly tied the game in the 38th minute when Huntelaar was fouled in the box by Chase Harrison, the Union's starting goalkeeper for the friendly. The two players collided in the 18 and Huntelaar was eventually substituted off of the field and was sent to the hospital because of concussion concerns.
Despite not playing Danny Califf, who was given a rest by the Union because of his ailing hamstring, the Union defense (Raymon Gaddis, Sheanon Williams, Carlos Valdes, Gabriel Farfan) was solid once again, other than the single goal it gave up.
Sergio Escudero, a Spanish midfielder on Schalke, tied the game for the visitors off of a wickedly curving ball in the 41st minute. The shot was not defended by Harrison, who was rooted to the ground as the ball found the net just inside of the left post.
At halftime, Raul came off of the field in favor of José Manuel Jurado, and the Union sent on all of their bench but Jimmy McLaughlin. On came Antoine Hoppenot, Hoffman, Jack McInerney, Zach Pfeffer, Amobi Okugo and Cristhian Hernandez for Mwanga, Carroll, Martinez, Pajoy, Herdling and Daniel.
After the substitutions, Schalke took some control of the game. The Champions League semi-finalists in 2010 took advantage of the youthful inexperience of the second half Union squad and could have easily scored a few goals throughout.
Atsuto Uchida, Holtby, Christoph Moritz, Teemu Pukki and Jurado all threatened the Union goal at some point in the second half, but were either rebuffed by the post or by a surprisingly impressive Chris Konopka.
Philly was able to withstand the pressure of Schalke's attack in the second half thanks to the play of Valdes, who wore the Captain's armband once again. The Colombian center defender was able to play alongside both Williams and Porfirio Lopez, who played centerback for the first time in a Union first team game, during the game.
Hernandez and Pfeffer nearly connected in the 86th minute to win the game for the Union, but Pfeffer's attempt was stopped by the diving Lars Unnerstall.
The host would find their second goal two minutes later, as Hoffman put a Gaddis pass into the back of the net past Unnerstall for the game winner.
The Union are now 4-0-0 all-time at PPL Park in international friendlies, with their other victories over Celtic FC, Chivas de Guadalajara and Everton FC in the past two years. Next up at PPL Park in international friendlies is Aston Villa, who will visit from England on July 18.