On Saturday night, the Philadelphia Union and Swansea City calmly played to a draw in a game where the outcome was never important. The two teams used a combined 47 players, a few of whom were debutants, with both sides clearly focused on match fitness, as is usually the case in the Union’s annual mid-season friendlies.
Kyle Bartley and Jordan Ayew found the net for Swansea, and CJ Sapong and Jay Simpson both scored in their stints up top.
Simpson’s goal, the one that settled the score at two in the 58th minute, was the game’s first from the run of play. That the prior three tallies were the result of dead-ball situations is a pretty good indicator of both teams’ attacking intent. Simpson’s goal was worth the wait, though, as he beat Edwin Mulder to the far post while a Swansea center back brought him to the ground.
The game’s first goal came from the penalty spot, but the play to get it there was worthy of the goal. Seizing on a poor back-pass from compatriot Luciano Narsingh, Roland Alberg picked up the ball in Swansea’s half with plenty of room. He found Marcus Epps on the opposite flank, and the rookie proceeded to dance into the box before he was taken down.
Swansea were the benefactors of some sloppy corner-kick defending from the Union’s first unit. Kyle Bartley was the first to capitalize, tapping in Jack Elliott’s poor attempt at a headed clearance that simply teed up Bartley. Roque Mesa initiated the messy sequence, as his drilled shot forced a quick, uncomfortable save Jake McGuire, who understandably couldn’t rein in the ball.
There’s less sympathy for McGuire on the second goal. The 22-year-old goalkeeper came off his line to claim Swansea’s corner-kick service, but he never had a handle on the situation. McGuire flailed around about 10 yards out from his goal as the ball made its way to Jordan Ayew. Just as Bartley did, Ayew slotted it into the gaping net.
Despite allowing Swansea’s two goals, the Union’s first-half center backs impressed. Jack Elliott looked comfortable going up against Premier League competition, as did Auston Trusty in his first start for the Union. Jake McGuire, on the other hand, looked like a goalkeeper that could use some more match experience. He did flex his shot-stopping capabilities on a few occasions, but his command of the box was sorely lacking.
Trusty, McGuire, Aaron Jones, and Anthony Fontana all made their Philadelphia Union debuts on Saturday night. In their short appearances, Jones looked competent going forward from the right back position, and Fontana was determined to jink past any Swansea defender in his way. Fontana, 17, has not signed with the team yet, but he has made 13 appearances for Bethlehem Steel FC over the past two seasons.
The Union return to competitive play on Wednesday, when they take on the Impact in Montreal. Chris Pontius and Andre Blake are still away on national team duty with their respective teams, though it is possible that Pontius is recalled from the USMNT going into the next round. Alejandro Bedoya left the team following the group stage to be with his girlfriend prior to the birth of their second child. Whether Bedoya or Pontius—if he returns—play on Wednesday is up in the air.
First Half: Jake McGuire; Giliano Wijnaldum, Auston Trusty, Jack Elliott, Raymon Gaddis; Haris Medunjanin, Warren Creavalle; Fafa Picault, Roland Alberg, Marcus Epps; CJ Sapong
Second Half: John McCarthy; Fabinho, Richie Marquez, Josh Yaro, Keegan Rosenberry (Aaron Jones 76’); Brian Carroll (Ken Tribbett 76’), Derrick Jones (Anthony Fontana 76’); Charlie Davies, Adam Najem, Ilsinho; Jay Simpson
First Half: Kristoffer Nordfelt; Martin Olsson, Alfie Mawson, Kyle Bartley, Kyle Naughton; Tom Carroll, Roque Mesa; Wayne Routledge, Leroy Fer, Luciano Narsingh; Jordan Ayew
Second Half: Erwin Mulder; Stephen Kingsley, Mike van der Hoorn, Federico Fernandez, Angel Rangel; Leon Britton, Jay Fulton; Jefferson Montero, Matt Grimes, Modou Barrow; Oli McBurnie