Philadelphia Union defeats Celtic FC in exhibition soccer match

Posted: July 15, 2010

The "trialist" tag on journeyman midfielder Eduardo Coudet is just a temporary formality.

In the Union's 1-0 defeat of a sluggish Celtic FC side last night at PPL Park, Coudet, who has been training with the Union for weeks, controlled the center of the pitch perhaps better than any of the other players who have had the role this season. He only played one half, but his diligence was rewarded in the 23rd minute after he slotted a crisp pass at the top of the 18-yard-box to forward Sebastien Le Toux, who bypassed Celtic goalkeeper Dominic Cervi and calmly placed the ball into the back of the net.

Union manager Peter Nowak said the team is "very close to making a deal" with the 35-year-old Argentine midfielder.

"He has been with us for a while and tonight we just wanted to give him some minutes, but we've known of his abilities for a while,'' Nowak said. "We are looking for someone to come in here and be a leader, and he fits that mold."

Given his trial status, Coudet was unavailable for comment, but with the summer transfer window closing, it appears Nowak plans to go the route of finding diamonds in the rough rather than precious stones, like other Eastern Conference counterparts. Just yesterday, Red Bull New York welcomed French star Thierry Henry as the latest big name to join the league.

Last season, Coudet played alongside Union defender Michael Orozco Fiscal at San Luis FC, of the Mexican First Division. During a 17-year career, Coudet has been involved with numerous teams, most notably Argentine first division club River Plate, and Celta Vigo, formerly a team in Spain's La Liga, but currently in the second division. It's said Coudet has more than 50 career goals, to go with his playmaking abilities.

"I have played with him for 2 years and he was always a playmaker and he gives a lot of assists . . . but he's a leader in the midfield and that is going to help us out a lot," said Orozco Fiscal. "Hopefully, he comes here with the same mentality he had in San Luis."

The win marked the Union's first against an international opponent - and outside of MLS - and the big-name opponent didn't appear to faze Nowak's young club.

The other Union playmaker, 19-year-old Roger Torres, was carted off midway through the first half after a challenge with a Celtic defender. Torres returned to the bench in training attire early in the second half, donning crutches with an ice wrap around his right ankle. Union trainer Paul Rushing said the team will run additional tests today on the ankle, but labeled Torres' current status as questionable.

Nowak gave his bench a run, fueled by players that hadn't seen the pitch in a few games. Andrew Jacobson, Toni Stahl, Amobi Okugo all took the field, but the surprise was rookie goalkeeper Brian Perk. Proof of his talents came in the 89th minute when Perk withstood three Celtic chances on goal, the last cleared out of danger by veteran defender Jordan Harvey. In stoppage time, Perk closed down a final barrage that found the ball careen off the crossbar, keeping the Union's first-ever shutout intact.

"There were no points on the line, but this game meant everything to me, this was my first professional game," Perk said. "You want to go out there and perform well for your club, but mainly I wanted to prove that even though you haven't seem me play, that I can play too."

Returning to MLS play Saturday, the Union will host Toronto FC (3:30 p.m., 6ABC) before taking on international giant Manchester United next Wednesday at Lincoln Financial Field.

For kicks

Celtic supporters went Euro as they decided to light up flares in the 82nd minute. One fan had to be wrestled out of his section by stadium officials . . . Last night's match was nearly called off due to flooding in many of the Union's unfinished parking lots.