Philadelphia Union fall to Aston Villa, 1-0, in friendly

Posted: July 19, 2012

Keon Daniel's service on his second corner kick of the 84th minute sailed past every player crowded into the box and bent its way out of bounds before anyone had a chance to grab possession. The front-row fans from the Sons of Ben were closer to the errant kick than any player.

Daniel had two chances to tie it up late with corner kicks against Aston Villa, but the English Premier League team thoroughly outplayed the Union early for a 1-0 win on Wednesday night. The Union didn't capitalize on its few good chances in the loss in front of a crowd of 17,195 at PPL Park in Chester.

Daniel couldn't get either of his attempts to amount to anything. He walked from the second corner alone with his head up.

Sure, he was disappointed. He wished he'd done better. This season he hasn't received as much playing time as in previous years, and anything he could have done Wednesday would have helped.

But Daniel had his head up because this was just an international friendly - a contest that doesn't count toward the Union's Major League Soccer record.

The difference was a 43d-minute goal by Nathan Delfouneso, who cracked the Union defense with a 27-yard strike that found the far post behind Union keeper Zac MacMath.

Delfouneso's celebration was minimal. It took long enough for his team to score in this friendly. In the minutes before the game-winner, Aston Villa had plenty of chances, but MacMath kept them off the board.

By the time both teams were finishing with what essentially amounted to a roster of reserves, the Union had settled in and made a few good runs in the final third of the game.

In the 73d minute, the Union's Josue Martinez beat his defender, but his tough-angle shot rolled just past goalkeeper Brad Guzan and a few feet wide of the far post.

In the 82d minute, Union midfielder Greg Jordan unleashed a drive from 32 yards out that just missed high, but not by much.

Just 30 seconds later, Brian Carroll intercepted a pass in the same place, but his shot sailed a few yards high and into the stands.

Those chances were too few, too late.

The Birmingham-based Aston Villa would have been hard-pressed to dominate the first half more than it did. At the end of the first 45 minutes, the Villans led, 6-2, in shots and, 4-0, in shots. But even those statistics don't represent the domination. Until the 60th minute, the Union had a tough time even gaining possession on the Aston Villa half of the pitch.

This was just a friendly, though, and the style of play reflected that. Besides substituting frequently, both sides early on relied too heavily on low-percentage long balls.

In the second minute, Aston Villa had a sure goal when two players got behind the Union defense, but MacMath got enough of the shot to deflect it up before catching the ball on its return down. MacMath and the ball crashed down directly on the goal line, thwarting any chance of a rebound.

Ten minutes after that, MacMath made a sprawling kick save on a blast from the England under-21 international Delfouneso, who was sprung free on a pretty long ball.

On the Union's last possession of the game, Villa had another corner kick for one last shot at an equalizer. But the service was harmlessly headed away and the final whistle blew on a game where the Union's chances came too late to amount to anything.

Contact Chad Graff at Follow

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