CHESTER, Pa. — It took a 17-year-old unsigned academy player to lead the Philadelphia Union past a top-tier English Premier League club on Wednesday night.
In front of 18,582 fans at PPL Park, Christian Hernandez, the US Soccer U-17/18 Development Academy Player of the Year, scored the only goal with three minutes remaining to lift Philly past Everton FC, 1-0, in a high-profile international exhibition.
Hernandez, a midfielder, entered the game in the 71st minute and fired a left-footed shot into the back of the net after Everton failed to clear the ball out of the box in the 87th minute.
Fellow academy star Jimmy McLaughlin also gave the Union a spark as a second-half sub, as did teenage rookie Zach Pfeffer, whose initial shot from point-blank range was stopped before Hernandez pounced on the clearance attempt for the lone goal.
Although the game didn’t count toward the MLS league standings, Union fans were still energized by their young players, even if Everton starting goalkeeper Tim Howard, a star on the US national team, did not make the trip.
Nevertheless, the Toffees still started many of their regulars, including captain Phil Neville and their leading scorer from a year ago, Tim Cahill. Jan Mucha, a starter for Slovakia in the 2010 World Cup, manned the net in Howard’s place.
The Union, meanwhile, rested many of their regulars while giving rare starts to playmakers Roger Torres and Jack McInerney and handing the start in goal to Zac MacMath, who didn’t have to make a save on the night.
But even with a young team out there, the Union still looked composed and creative through much of the game, while Everton, despite a stroke or two of brilliance, looked like they were in preseason form.
In the first half, Philly enjoyed a couple of decent scoring chances, on headers from striker Danny Mwanga and defender Carlos Valdés, who later struck just wide moments before the break.
The Union got even younger in the second half, subbing in a trio of rookies — defender Ryan Richter, midfielder Michael Farfan and goalkeeper Thorne Holder — before later inserting Pfeffer, McLaughlin and Hernandez. Philly's 30-year-old defender Juan Diego González, who has yet to play in a league match, also got in to anchor the back line alongside fellow veteran Stefani Miglioranzi, who was wearing the captain’s armband vs. the Toffees.
In the 74th minute, Holder made a huge save on a redirected shot from Everton’s Apostalas Vellias to keep the game scoreless.
The Union are now 3-1 all-time against international teams, having beaten Celtic FC and Chivas de Guadalajara and losing to Manchester United last season.
Philadelphia host another international club on Saturday when Real Madrid come to Lincoln Financial Field. Everton continue their US tour with a game against D.C. United on the same day.
PHI -- Christian Hernandez (Zach Pfeffer) 87
EVE -- John Heitinga (caution; Reckless Tackle) 83
PHI -- Christian Hernandez (caution; Shirt Removal) 88
EVE -- John Heitinga (ejection; Serious Foul Play) 91+
PHI -- Roger Torres (caution; Reckless Foul) 93+
Everton FC -- Jan Mucha, Phil Jagielka, Philip Neville, John Heitinga, Leighton Baines, Seamus Coleman, Diniyar Bilyaletdinov (Ross Barkley 64), Mikel Arteta (Sylvain Distin 46), Tim Cahill (Conor McAleny 78), Jermaine Beckford (Apostalas Vellias 46), Magaye Geuye (Jack Rodwell 46).
Substitutes Not Used: Johns, Adam Davies, A. Dier, I. Touray
Philadelphia Union -- Zac MacMath (Thorne Holder 47), Carlos Valdes (Juan Diego Gonzalez 46), Stefani Miglioranzi, Roger Torres, Gabriel Farfan (Zach Pfeffer 63), Sheanon Williams (Ryan Richter 46), Amobi Okugo, Jack McInerney (Jimmy McLaughlin 78), Danny Mwanga, Keon Daniel (Christian Hernandez 70), Justin Mapp (Michael Farfan 47).
Substitutes Not Used: Danny Califf, Brian Carroll, Levi Houapeu, Sebastien Le Toux, Kyle Nakazawa, Veljko Paunovic, Carlos Ruiz, Faryd Mondragon.
Referee: Jorge Gonzalez
Referee's Assistants: Adam Wienckowski; Eric Boria
4th Official: Ayodeji Obisesan
Time of Game: 1:51
Weather: Cloudy and 99 degrees