Union ekes out 1-0 win over Everton in exhibition

Union goalie Thorne Holder blocks a shot in the second half.
Union goalie Thorne Holder blocks a shot in the second half. (LAURENCE KESTERSON / Staff photographer)
Posted: July 21, 2011

Promising, extremely promising.

Really the only way to describe the Union's 1-0 win over Everton FC at PPL Park last night. While the game lacked serious end-to-end excitement, it did show the Union has a young corps of talent yet to be fully unleashed.

Christian Hernandez, a 17-year-old relative unknown listed on the Union's academy roster, buried a deflection in the box in the 88th minute past Everton goalkeeper Jan Mucha. The goal even shocked those seated in the River End, who rang out a "Who are ya!" chant after Hernandez, U.S. Soccer's under-17/18 developmental player of the year, scored his first professional goal. Hernandez will head into his senior year at St. Benedict's (N.J.) Prep, a school better known for basketball.

"Shocking. Coming in in the 67th minute and getting that chance and putting it in, it's amazing," Hernandez said. "It felt like a dream. When I was running it felt like I was floating . . . [Union manager] Peter Nowak gave me congratulations and told me just to stay positive and keep my feet on the ground and keep moving forward."

The sellout crowd of 18,582, including players from the Independence, Philadelphia's Women's Professional Soccer club, saw many players make their professional debut; a player in Roger Torres who normally enters as a spark, arguably become the man of the match; and a trio of homegrown players showcase their prowess.

"This is an opportunity for me to do a good job and show Peter that I can play 90 minutes," Torres said. "I think I can do a better job than I did tonight . . . I just want to be ready to do my best whenever the coaches need me."

Zach Pfeffer (Upper Dublin), Ryan Richter (William Tennent High, La Salle University) and trialist Jimmy McLaughlin (Great Valley) were second-half substitutions who played solid minutes and brought a spark to a game that desperately needed one going into halftime.

"It was a long time coming, man, a long time," said Richter, who played left fullback. "Playing tonight in front of family and friends against a club like Everton was just surreal. I have been waiting for this opportunity, and I hope I showed the training staff that I am ready."

As for Pfeffer: "I would have done anything to get a goal tonight. But playing tonight gave me a lot of confidence and was a learning experience. Hopefully, next time I am in this position, I'll put one in the back of the net."

The first half was devoid of a serious goal-scoring threat from either team. Everton did not register a shot toward the Union net until the 20th minute - and that was only after a foul on forward Mikel Arteta by Sheanon Williams allowed a free kick.

Instead of All-Star goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon in net, 19-year-old first-round SuperDraft selection Zac MacMath made his professional debut. McMath had little to do in the form of work. Thorne Holder replaced him in the second half and showed why the Union acquired him in the offseason.

Against what basically was an Everton team still shaking off the rust from a 2-month layoff, this collection of players showed there are some crown jewels in the Union locker room.

Then again, that's why they are called exhibition matches.

The Union will face a much stiffer test on Saturday, against Spanish giant Real Madrid, led by former FIFA World Players of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka, at Lincoln Financial Field (9 p.m., ESPN Deportes). As for Everton, it's a short trip down I-95 to play DC United at RFK Stadium.

Odds and endlines

Italian powerhouse Juventus FC has set up base camp at the Four Seasons Hotel in Center City while in the United States for the World Football Challenge. The team will play Sporting Portugal Saturday at Toronto's BMO Field. Then it's off to face Mexico's Club America July 26 at Citi Field in New York before a finale against another Mexican club, CD Guadalajara, on July 28 at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C. *

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