On Wednesday night, Aston Villa did something no other international team had done before: beat the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park.
The Union, who had been 4-0 in international friendlies at their home stadium coming into the contest, beating Schalke, Everton, Celtic and CD Guadalajara, but the streak ended as they lost 1-0 thanks to a first-half goal from striker Nathan Delfouneso.
After receiving a pass from midfielder Brett Holman in the 43rd minute, Delfouneso turned and fired a shot from distance that beat Union ’keeper Zac MacMath to the bottom left corner.
Before that, MacMath had been brilliant to keep the game scoreless, stopping Holman in the second minute from point-blank range, then denying Darren Bent before producing another save to thwart Delfouneso.
Chase Harrison, who played the second half in goal for the Union, made an impressive save of his own in stoppage time to prevent Aston Villa from wining by more.
The challenge with these exhibition games is that the Union did not want to give anyone injured, so they rested most of their stars. As a result, their lineup of mostly reserve players failed to register a shot on goal in the first half. The revolving door continued in the second half as homegrown players and teenagers Zach Pfeffer, Jimmy McLaughlin and Cristhian Hernandez all saw some playing time as the Union used 21 different players on the night.
Villa boss Paul Lambert was happy with his teams performance in the heat saying:
“It was a very good workout. I thought we were excellent, certainly for good spells of the game.
“I thought it was tough for us with the heat but I was delighted with the way we played.
“I thought we should have been two or three up before we did score but the football we played was excellent. I was really, really pleased.
“It’s not an easy place to play with their crowd but I was really pleased with my team.
“The passing pleased me but also the commitment. I think that’s always important aswell.
“You can’t play without commitment. This last fortnight we’ve been at it. The lads have been great.
“I think they only came at for the last quarter – the last 15 minutes or so – but for us as the away team to play the way we did, having just come back from pre-season, was great.
“They are into their league season. That shows how tough a contest it was. And they have beaten some really big sides here. I am delighted with the guys.
“I think collectively they did well. Everyone did well.
“It was good to win and if you can keep that winning feeling going it can stand you in good stead. I know in pre-season though it’s not the main thing.
“I just think they deserve a lot of credit for what they have done in the last couple of weeks after the disappointments of last year.”
Aston Villa continue their preseason tour through the United States with a game at Chicago on Saturday before going to Portland on July 24.