CHESTER, Pa. – It doesn’t count toward the standings, but the Philadelphia Union did two things they haven’t been able to do much of this season: employ a dangerous offensive attack and earn a win.
And they did so against a well-known team that recently wrapped up a third-place finish in the German Bundesliga.
On Wednesday night at PPL Park, rookie striker Chandler Hoffman scored the game-winner in the 88th minute to send Philly to a 2-1 victory over FC Schalke 04, who were playing their first game in the United States since 1963.
The game marked the final one for Raúl in a Schalke uniform, but the Union didn’t hold back in trying to send the Spanish legend out with a loss.
Despite resting five starters – goalie Zac MacMath, defender Danny Califf and midfielders Gabriel Gómez, Freddy Adu and Michael Farfan – the Union were the dominant team for much of the first half.
Philadelphia – who have just five goals and 18 shots on target through eight league matches – scored first when striker Lionard Pajoy headed home a perfect free kick from midfielder Keon Daniel in the 21st minute.
Pajoy, who has played as a lone striker for much of this season, was joined up top by Danny Mwanga and Josué Martínez, both of whom played aggressively and got off good shots. As a team, the Union fired 11 shots in the first half.
Filling in for MacMath in net, Chase Harrison had an eventful first half against the Bundesliga powers. Harrison, who has never made an official league appearance, made two big saves – on Teemu Pukki and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar – in the first 10 minutes, before getting into a nasty collision in the box with Huntelaar in the 36th minute.
Huntelaar, the leading scorer in the Bundesliga this past season, had to leave the game shortly after that while Harrison was whistled for a penalty in the box. But Schalke’s Lewis Holtby banged the ensuing penalty kick off the crossbar.
The German visitors got on the scoreboard five minutes later, however, when Sergio Escudero snuck a deep shot between the right post and Harrison, who was caught flat-footed on the tricky shot.
Both teams made changes at halftime with Raúl (who had one shot in his farewell game) coming off for Schalke and youngsters Hoffman, Antonie Hoppenot, Jack McInerney, Zach Pfeffer, Amobi Okugo and Cristhian Hernandez all coming on for Philly. Teenager Teenager Jimmy McLaughlin was later inserted into the lineup at right back.
Third-string ’keeper Chris Konopka played the second half in net for Philly and immediately had his work cut out for him, making saves big saves on Holtby and Astuto Uchida in the 64th and 68th minute, respectively. Later, in the 81st minute, Konopka made another nice stop on Pukki, who was alone on net.
Minutes later, the Union managed to preserve the 1-1 tie when Holtby’s chip hit the post and the Union blocked away a flurry of chances afterwards.
In the 86th minute, Pfeffer fired a close-range, tough-angle shot that was saved by Schalke 'keeper Lars Unnerstall, but Hoffman put the Union up for good shortly after that when he received a cross from Raymon Gaddis and slotted a low shot into the corner.
The Union, who are now 4-0 in international friendlies at PPL Park, return to action Sunday with a key Eastern Conference contest against the rival Red Bulls (12:30 pm ET, ESPN2, LIVE CHAT on MLSsoccer.com).
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.