Philadelphia Union friendly vs. Stoke City marred by potentially serious injury to Brek Shea

CHESTER, Pa. – After scoring twice at the CONCACAF Gold Cup, including the game-winner in Sunday’s championship win, Brek Shea picked up right where he left off Tuesday, netting an early goal to help Stoke City pick up a 2-0 exhibition victory over the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park.

The only thing that could stop the US national team and English premier league winger? An ugly tackle from Union reserve Matt Kassel that left Stoke City manager Mark Hughes fuming.

The tackle occurred in the 27th minute, just eight minutes after Shea scored a pretty toe-poke goal on a cross from Michael Kightly. Shea limped off the field and told reporters after the game, while on crutches, that he had sustained an injury to his left knee.

“Obviously I’m pretty upset right now,” said Shea, who had just met up with his Stoke City teammates Monday after spending a couple of weeks with the US national team. “I was excited to get back to Stoke and get ready for the season. Hopefully it’s not as bad as it feels.”

Shea said he’d know more on Wednesday after he undergoes an MRI. But Hughes wasted no time predicting that Shea would be out “for a number of weeks at least,” while blasting Kassel for violating the code of an international friendly.

“It was a nasty injury,” Hughes said. “It looks like some damage to the ligaments in his knee. He’s going to be scanned. I thought it was a very, very poor challenge by the boy. What the hell was he was thinking of, I have no idea.

“It’s a friendly game,” the Stoke City manager added. “You need to protect your fellow professional. And I don’t think the guy did that. I don’t know who he was. Maybe he was trying to make a name for himself, I don’t know. He went the wrong way about it.”

Kassel, who was booed by some fans at PPL Park following the tackle, was extremely remorseful following the game. The 23-year-old has only played 33 minutes this season but got the start at right back for Tuesday’s friendly as Hackworth opted to field a lineup entirely made of reserves in the first half.

“Obviously I didn’t mean to do that,” Kassel said. “I’m friends with the kid. It was completely just going for the ball. Unfortunately things happen and tonight he unfortunately got hurt.

“There was no intent at all,” he added. “I wish him all the best and I apologize for the tackle.”

Other Union players expressed remorse about the injury after the game. So did Hackworth, who called it “really unfortunate because I thought Brek was doing really well.”

But Shea – who made his USMNT debut at PPL Park in 2010 and scored a goal the last time he was in the Union’s home stadium, while with FC Dallas in 2011 – wanted to make sure that Kassel didn’t feel too bad.

“He was going for the ball,” Shea said. “I tried to put my body in front of his and it’s soccer. Tackles happen – good and bad. I’ve done worse to other people. I’m not mad at all.

“When I was walking off, he apologized. And I said, ‘[Expletive] happens.’”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.