Union find offense in friendly vs. Schalke


CHESTER, Pa.Although it happened in a game that wasn't televised and didnt officially count, played in front of almost no one at PPL Park, the Union offense finally came together.
With creativity not seen during their MLS season in which they only have five goals to their name, the Union received scores from a pair of strikers, including one from Chandler Hoffman in the 88th minute to take down Bundesliga powerhouse FC Schalke 04, 2-1, in a friendly on Wednesday night at PPL Park.
With time running out on the 1-1 contest, the Union rookies came alive on the counter-attack. A lead pass down the left side of the Schalke box from Antoine Hoppenot was picked up by speedy Ray Gaddis and immediately centered to Chandler Hoffman, who was laying back. Hoffman gathered the ball and finessed a shot just inside the right post and in for the game-winner.
Antoine had the ball out wide and found Ray, who was able to get around the defender, he has great pace, said Hoffman, the Unions first-round selection in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft. I was holding my run up a little and saw their center back hanging back. I was trying to find the back post and was able to do that.
Ive been working super hard in preseason and I havent found many minutes so far this season, so to get an opportunity tonight and score the game-winnerit was a special moment.
The victory is the fourth for the Union in international friendlies at PPL Park. The third-year club also defeated visiting Celtic FC, Everton and Chivas Guadalajara.
I cant speak for others, but for me its all motivation, said Danny Mwanga, who played the first half and had a shot. To play against a high quality team like Schalke, its a test. Every one shows up ready to play. You know its a tough opponent and you have to be focused the whole game.
Now the most important thing is translating that into the season, we have to keep that mentality high. Every opponent, we have to play them like were playing games like this. If we can do that we would be able to get good results.
To open the contest and resting four startersDanny Califf, Zac MacMath, Freddy Adu and Gabriel Gomezthe Union pushed an attacking set, featuring Josue Martinez, Lionard Pajoy and Mwanga up front, in a departure from their typical one-striker system.
This paid off early as the Union shocked Raul-led Schalke, and may have surprised themselves on a free kick in the 21st minute, when Keon Daniel lined up around 35 yards outside the box. Bending the perfect shot that curled onto frame, Daniels attempt found the head of streaking Pajoy and past Lars Unnerstall for the 1-0 Union lead.
For a team that is tied for last in the MLS with five goals on the season, stringing together a textbook set piece was a reliefone that had the limited home crowd chanting, Do that Sunday, referring to the Unions next MLS match against the New York Red Bulls at PPL Park.
Weve said it all alongwe think our offense is better than we showed in recent weeks, said Union assistant coach John Hackworth, who led the bench in place of Peter Nowak. We were encouraged by the fact that we had four shots earlier in the game. With Pajoy, we moved him to a wider position and that opened up some room. Danny Mwanga did a great job of stretching the defense. Josue also came on and did a good job. It was good for us.
We wanted to see it, we wanted to see it last Saturday and we emphasized it again. Its something the players have in their mind and they took shots tonight, which is great.
However, the most impressive early individual effort came on defense from backup goaltender Chase Harrison, who made a pair of fingertip saves to keep the game scoreless in the opening 10 minutes.
Harrisons eagerness to impress continued in the 38th minute on an aggressive play for the ball that resulted in a violent collision with Bundesligas leading scorer Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. Harrison charged a loose air ball but lunged into Huntleaar, knocking the striker out of the game with a head injury. On the ensuing penalty kick, Schalkes Lewis Holtby lined up but fired a shot off the crossbar, preserving the Unions lead.
The goalkeepers were really good, said Hackworth. Chase played a great first half.
I dont think that was a PK at all. It was a clean challenge where the ball was cleared before there was contact with the player. I have no idea how that could be viewed the other way.
But Harrisons mastery and the Unions magic wouldnt last. Just three minutes after the fruitless penalty kick, Schalkes Sergio Escudero fired off a long-distance shot that beat the unsuspecting keeper, tying the game at one at the half.
Preying on the Union reserves, Schalkes attack began to thrive, peppering Konopka, who picked up where Harrison left off by making save after save to keep the game miraculously tied and give his team a chance to take the eventual win. Konopka finished with five saves.
Chris Konopka came on and really kept us in the game in the second half, said Hackworth. He made a number of really good saves in moments that were critical to us staying in it. He allowed us to ultimately get the second goal and win.
E-mail Ryan Bright at ryanbright13@gmail.com.

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