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Ward Impressed By Philli Progress

12 July 2016

Having previously played against Philadelphia Union two years ago for the Eagles, Joel Ward has praised their upgraded facilities ahead of the two sides' friendly match on Wednesday.

The right-back has participated in both of Palace's training sessions in Pennsylvania on recently-installed training pitches adjacent to the Talen Energy Stadium, and he has been impressed with the Union's progression on and off the field over the past two years.

That saw hundreds of supporters - young and old - attend an open session on Tuesday morning, and they went home happy after meeting the Eagles squad and management with t-shirts and autographs in hand, and Ward was happy to give back to those looking forward to the following day's game, which will be his first action since May's FA Cup final.

Comparing his two trips to the city with the club, Ward said: "We are over here [Philadelphia] for a few extra days this time. We trained on the stadium pitch last time so it was nice to be able to go out there and train on the training ground which was in really good condition. It's a great set-up now.

"I for one really enjoy these tours because you firstly get to see the world and secondly see other people's views of football and the global influence it has on the world. There is a lot of culture here as well and that's definitely come though so far.

"Philadelphia are in their season now and firing on all cylinders and we've only been back a week and we're trying to get fit, so we see this as a great platform for us as we're coming up against guys who are very fit and very quick as well, so it's a big challenge for us."

Ward played 50 minutes against Jim Curtin's men back in July 2014 and drawing on his previous experience of taking on American clubs in the past and his knowledge of MLS, the defender has urged his teammates to be ready for a tough challenge due to the improving nature of Stateside soccer, adding: "Technically we've got to be on it because the improvements has been massive over the last few years in the United States.

"People probably underestimate the physicality of the league and the speed of which it is played at and the athleticism as well. Players like Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard are at the top of the game so they're still able to mix it no matter how old they are because they have that quality, and that's what the MLS is trying to bring in. 

"They also attract a lot of media and a lot of endorsements and it makes the league what it is and hopefully it'll continue to build and grow."

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