An own goal from Ethan White was enough to secure Crystal Palace a 1-0 win over Philadelphia Union as they ground out their first victory on the club’s American tour.
The Eagles could and perhaps should have had more goals to show for their first half superiority at PPL Park, but Yannick Bolasie, Joe Ledley and Dwight Gayle all found Philly goalkeeper Andre Blake in inspired form.
Aided by seven half-time introductions, the Union upped their game in the second period and threatened an equaliser on a number of occasions, coming closest through Sebastien Le Toux’s strike which narrowly slithered wide of the far post, but Palace dug deep to seal their second win from three pre-season outings.
After two early efforts by Bolasie and Philly debutant Brian Brown both flew harmlessly over the crossbar, the hosts soon forced Julian Speroni into the first save of the match 10 minutes in. Danny Cruz teased his way past Joel Ward and stood up a decent cross to the back post for Andrew Wenger, but his header was parried away by the Eagles’ glovesman at his near post.
Speroni’s opposite number Blake dirtied his gloves for the first time three minutes later, making a routine save from Bolasie’s left-footed shot, but there was nothing he could do about the opening goal of the game on 20 minutes. Scott Dann played a long diagonal ball into the box with Marouane Chamakh his intended target, but White got up above the Moroccan, only to see his header loop over the helpless Blake and into the empty net.
Palace could have doubled their lead 60 seconds later when Jason Puncheon teed up Bolasie, who hit a spectacular bicycle kick which Blake did well to parry – and the Jamaican got up quickly to smother Ledley’s volleyed rebound.
Philly’s back-up goalkeeper was having a busy night and he continued to stake his claim for a regular place in the side with another superb stop 60 seconds later to keep Gayle at bay, when he somehow got down to keep out his powerful left-footed effort from inside the box.
The lively Cruz was proving Palace’s chief tormentor at the other end and after his route to goal was blocked inside the Eagles’ penalty area by Ward, Fred teed up Maurice Edu – a player Tony Pulis signed for Stoke City two years ago – but the Union captain’s shot fizzed wide.
That was one of few forays into Eagles territory by the hosts during the first half and interim Philadelphia boss Jim Curtin made seven changes at the break in a bid to stem the tide.
It seemed to work with the tourists struggling to maintain the same tempo as they displayed in the first period and it was Philly who had the first meaningful attempt at goal of the second 45 when substitute Le Toux’s corner was headed wide by Austin Berry on 57 minutes.
Berry was part of the back four that were caught out just after the hour mark though when Chamakh latched onto Paddy McCarthy’s searching ball and chested it down brilliantly, only to see his lofted volley beat Blake but land on the roof of the net.
That was to prove McCarthy’s last telling involvement in the game though as the calf problem he picked up in training earlier in the tour curtailed his night – and the back four he departed soon faced problems from a Philly corner. The Eagles failed to effectively clear their lines and the ball eventually broke for Sheannon Williams, whose close range effort was well saved by Speroni to maintain his team’s advantage.
The home side were playing themselves back into the game, but it was Pulis’ charges who came close to putting the game beyond their MLS opponents with 15 minutes to go. Barry Bannan dinked a delightful ball into the path of Glenn Murray who had peeled away to the right flank. The frontman showed neat feet to lift the ball past Pedro Ribeiro and create space for a shot, only to see his volley held well by Blake.
It was then Philadelphia’s turn to threaten and they should have been level on 81 minutes. Club legend Le Toux beat the offside trap to burst onto Wheeler’s through ball and his driven cross-come-shot missed both the far post and the on-rushing Antoine Hoppenot by a matter of inches with the goal at the latter’s mercy.
That proved to be the Union's final opportunity though as Palace held on for their first Stateside win - a tally they will now look to double in their final game of the tour against Richmond Kickers on Monday night.
Philadelphia Union: Blake, Gaddis (Williams 46), Berry (Lahoud 72), White (Ribeiro 46), Fabinho, Edu (Carroll 46), Nogueira (Okugo 46), Fred (Wheeler 46), Cruz (Bone 46), Wenger (Le Toux 46), Brown (Hoppenot 72).
Crystal Palace: Speroni, Ward (Mariappa 50), Dann (McCarthy 54, Ramage 65), Delaney, Jerome Williams (Boateng 65), Puncheon (Bannan 54), Jedinak (O’Keefe 50), Ledley (Gray 65), Bolasie (Thomas 54), Chamakh (Guedioura 65), Gayle (Murray 50).