Unfortunately this will not be a cross-code game against the Philadelphia Eagles - although it would be fun to see some of those big fat linemen trying to run for longer than six seconds - the birds in question are Crystal Palace from the English Premier League, nicknamed 'The Eagles'. The Union kick off at 7:00 PM on Friday, July 25th in an 'International Friendly' against a Palace side that surprised many by finishing 11th last year in their first season back in the Premier League.
Much of their success is credited to replacement manager Tony Pulis who engineered a remarkable turnaround, taking over mid-season after lovable lunatic Ian Holloway got the sack. Given the circumstances, resources, and budget, a strong case could be made that Pulis deserved to be named manager of the year. Perhaps the greatest thing about Pulis is the fact that when he was manager of Stoke City a few years back he famously headbutted one of his own players. While both were in the showers, James Beattie was overheard complaining about the fact that their Christmas party had been cancelled by Pulis because the team's poor play didn't deserve it. Pulis had only a towel on and in the course of the set-to it dropped off, leaving quite the sight. So don't piss him off!
While not one of the more glamorous clubs in the Premier league, Palace are a decent and efficient footballing side and are perhaps a model for what The Union could be - namely a team that plays to its strengths, putting players in positions that they are comfortable with combined with an experienced coach who has clear expectations of each player's role. This game is very early in their pre-season preparations so don't expect full blood and thunder, but here are a few members of the squad to keep an eye on.
Joel Ward: Firm fan favorite and a versatile defender, Ward might just be the best all-around footballer on the team. Perhaps if he was playing on a more fashionable club he might have gone to the World Cup with England. Picked up a knock in a previous game, so might not feature.
Barry Bannan: 'The Aidrie Xavi', Bannan is a compact and clever midfielder with great vision and a good range of passing - which has seen him earn 17 caps for Scotland. At 24 years old this could be his best chance to assert himself as a player who truly belongs in the Premiership.
Marouane Chamakh: He is more than a stupid haircut, and at times he can dazzle you with a sublime piece of skill... and at others, he can be even more frustrating to watch than Danny Cruz. The Moroccan international was too inconsistent for Arsenal but might have found a home at Palace.
Lesser know lights to watch out for:
Dwight Gayle: Many Eagles fans expect this term to be a breakout year for Gayle. He is an exciting and dynamic forward with lots of pace who has struck up a good partnership with strike partner and former Phillies outfielder Glenn Murray (or maybe that's a different Glenn Murray).
Jonny Williams: Affectionately dubbed 'Joniesta', the 5' 6" Williams has bags of skill and flair and can use both feet - watch carefully when he is on the ball. He plays as an advanced playmaker and was perhaps responsible for much of Wilfried Zaha's success.
Adlène Guedioura: Just missed out on making the Algerian World Cup squad, but big things are expected of the French-born midfielder after a season of promise last year.
Rebecca Lowe off the telly, comedian Eddie Izzard, actor Bill Nighy (Davey Jones from Pirates of the Caribbean), and director Paul Greengrass (Bourne movies).