It was the final stretch of Spanish powerhouse, Real Madrid’s World Football Challenge quest as ‘Los Blancos’ faced Philadelphia Union at Lincoln Financial Field. It was a scorcher at 101 degrees, but that did not stop 57, 305 fans from seeing such a legendary team take the field. White shirts engulfed the stadium, mostly sporting CR7 on the back, while the Philadelphia supporters, “The Sons of Ben” were evident in their blue attire, filling two sections of the stadium and were never silenced during the entire 90 minutes, even as Real Madrid ran circles around them.
Real Madrid had already played two matches during the WFC, the first against LA Galaxy where they won 4-1 with goals from Jose Callejon, Joselu, Ronaldo and Benzema. The second match was played against CD Guadalajara, and again the Spanish powerhouse dominated the game, with a hat trick by CR7. Surely, for Real Madrid, a matchup against Philadelphia Union, a team currently ranked first in the Eastern Conference seemed like a walk in the park, but many were surprised by the tenacity and fight that the Union showed.
Jose Mourinho chose a 4-3-3 formation with fan favorite, Iker Casillas guarding the goal. Back four consisted of Jorge Casado, Raphael Varane, Alvaro Arbeloa and Ricardo Carvalho, while the midfield saw the likes of Xabi Alonso, EstebanGranero and the agile Mesut Ozil. Front three were a solid combination consisting of Karin Benzema, Callejon and Rodriguez.
Philadelphia Union stuck to a 4-4-2 formation, one that has seemed to work for them all season; goal guarded by Mondragon, a defense consisting of Williams, Califf, Valdes and Farfan. The midfield saw the likes of Mapp, Carroll, Makazawa and Daniel, while up front the two strikers would be French National, Le Toux and Ruiz.
From the minute the whistle blew, fans were in for some fancy footwork and a game that kept one intrigued. It merely took 3 minutes for Callejon to find the net and granted Real Madrid fans their first goal of the evening. Immediately the Union started fighting back, and Williams came close in the 8th, but just missed the opportunity by hitting the bar. Only three minutes later, Ozil would find the net to put Real Madrid up by two goals in the 11th minute.
Both sides had tremendous opportunities to score, however chances were just given up. Philadelphia was on the attack for the entire first half; however the amount of passes that were not completed could easily have put the Union at the same goal ratio as the Spanish Giants. As the halftime whistle blew, Real Madrid was in a comfortable 2-0 lead.
As the second half started, Real Madrid fans were in awe as Mourinho substituted all players, bringing out Pepe, CR7, Kaka, Marcelo, Coentrao, Albiol, Nejas, Fernandez and Joselu. For many fans, this would be the first time seeing legends such as Kaka and Pepe take the field, and they were certainly satisfied. Without effort, it seemed as though Los Blancos were just passing the ball, and truly enjoying it, while the Union were left fighting to find the net. Likewise, the Union also utilized all substitutes, time to showcase the talent to Mourinho and Athletic Director, Zidane.
The determination and fighting spirit of the Union would finally pay off in the 80th minute with a goal from Michael Farfan, sending the “Sons of Ben” into a craze, and making the Union fight that much harder during the last ten minutes. None the less, only scoring one goal against a powerhouse like Real Madrid is nothing to snub at. And for Los Blancos, this match would be their lowest scoring match during their WFC Quest. Does the LA Galaxy have some competition in the Union?
Assistant Real Madrid Coach, Karanka, who spent a season playing for the Colorado Rapids in 2006 stated that he was quite impressed with the MLS; “They have improved all their teams and players. There is still a slight difference between the leagues (European) but things are improving.”
Furthermore, he was hopeful that someday in the future MLS could be competitive on a European level; “Each club has its own soccer specific stadium, better facilities and that’s important. Step by step, I believe this league will position itself at a very good level.”
Brazilian midfielder, Kaka, stated that the Union gave Real Madrid a run for their money; “I was impressed with the Union. They hung in there and took it to us. I thought they played with a lot of intensity in the second half and we didn’t take a lot of our chances.”
The Philadelphia Union certainly impressed a lot of non-believers and those who doubt the validity of the MLS. Real Madrid headed back to Spain following the game, and is set to face FC Barcelona on August 14th. As for the WFC, the next match is set for July 26th, when Club America is set to face Juventus.
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