CHESTER, Pa. – While thrilled to be in the midst of their first three-game league winning streak in franchise history, the Philadelphia Union were also proud of another streak.
Until this week, they had won all four of the international exhibition matches they played at PPL Park, all of them against high-caliber opponents.
Naturally, then, there was a bit of disappointment when that streak came to an end with a 1-0 loss to Aston Villa on Wednesday.
REACTIONS: Philly, Aston Villa round up friendly
“No one expected us to win as many games as we did in these friendlies, even though [the other teams have been] in their preseason,” center back Amobi Okugo told MLSsoccer.com. “So we took pride in that, especially because it’s a chance to test ourselves. I mean, every one of us wants to play in Europe at some point in our career. So whenever you get a chance to play them, you want to play hard. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a win tonight.”
Of course, since it didn’t count toward the standings, losing Wednesday’s game certainly wasn’t as painful as some of the their other losses this season. And just giving minutes to the club’s rookies, teenagers and other seldom-used players against an English Premier League team should help the Union going forward, too.
“Every game you play, you want to win,” right back Sheanon Williams said. “Everyone in this locker room is competitive. Regardless if the game doesn’t matter or not, you still want to win. But there are things we can learn from this game. I thought at points we played really well and we put together some good things.”
Perhaps the most promising sign from Wednesday’s friendly was the performance of 22-year-old Josue Martinez, who played a fearless game up top and generated most of the Union’s second-half scoring chances.
Afterwards, interim manager John Hackworth indicated the Costa Rican’s performance against Villa could boost him higher in the depth chart.
“He’s moving himself up, I’ll tell you that,” Hackworth said. “I couldn’t be happier for Josue. He’s only a 22-year-old trying to adapt coming into a new country and new culture. And he’s getting it.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.