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A Philadelphia Union blog hosted by Christopher A. Vito and Matthew De George

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


The Union scored first, endured an equalizer and buried an 88th-minute goal to defeat Schalke 04, 2-1, Wednesday night in a friendly at PPL Park.

Here are two storylines worth looking into from tonight's game:

1. Carlos Valdes played 90 minutes.
With defensive depth lacking, as Danny Califf and Chris Albright were missing in action per Peter Nowak's doing, someone was going to have to bite the bullet and play 90 minutes. That ended up being centerback Carlos Valdes, who never left the pitch.

That's what Union assistant John Hackworth told reporters afterward.

“The reason was, we only had a limited number of substitutions, so we knew we had to have a couple guys go the full distance for us," Hackworth said. "We wouldn't have done it unless he was (up for it). Carlos is a true professional. He told Peter yesterday, 'I feel fine, I'm fully recovered from Seattle so no problems.'”

Still, why risk injury to one of your finest players in a meaningless game?
2. Chris Konopka has a sense of humor.
The Union's third-string goalkeeper, Chris Konopka doesn't get interview requests all too often. So when he was asked to speak following their win over Schalke, Konopka opened up.

He tied his tie while giving an interview, then teased rookie teammate Jimmy McLaughlin for being unable to do the same. Konopka told reporters McLaughlin, his roommate, often leaves the PPL Park locker room before the game ends "to go home and do his tie in the mirror, because he can't do it."

Then, Konopka explained who from the Union inspired him against Schalke. Read this:

“Yesterday in training, literally the first five minutes of a short-sided game, I let a ball go in and (Zach) Pfeffer scored on me," Konopka said. "I basically curled up into a ball. I made myself small. The first thing I had to get into my head was to keep myself big. I'm a big guy – 6-foot-5. The more I make myself big, the less they have to shoot at the goal."

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A couple odds-and-ends notes from the game:
  • Danny Mwanga might have a future as a broadcaster. He eavesdropped on interviews with Konopka and Chase Harrison, sticking his iPhone over reporters' shoulders and up to the goalkeepers' mouths. 
  • Game-winning goal-scorer Chandler Hoffman swapped jerseys with Schalke's Jermaine Jones, of the United States national team, in the moments after the match. 
  • Though it hit the crossbar, Harrison had Schalke's PK sniffed out from the start. Harrison said Kai Herdling, a German who's quite familiar with Schalke's Lewis Holtby's tendencies, told him Holtby goes "down the middle" on penalty kicks. Trouble averted. 
  • PPL Park security wouldn't allow Pfeffer -- by this time, wearing a button-down and a blazer -- into the mix zone area least not until Pfeffer pleaded with the guard, saying, "But I'm a player." The guard took Pfeffer at his word, and let him in.
  • The "official attendance" released by Union officials was 7,464. Sorry, but there's no way 7K were at PPL Park. Don't buy it.

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