Jay Simpson propels Union in come-from-behind draw with Swansea

CHESTER, Pa. -- Jay Simpson shined and Auston Trusty, Anthony Fontana and Aaron Jones made their club debut, as the Union came from behind to tie English Premier League’s Swansea in a friendly Saturday night at Talen Energy Stadium

“For our guys to test themselves against a top-tier team is good for everybody,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “We’re competitive, they’re pro athletes and they want to play against the best. A lot of guys rose to that occasion.”

With an MLS match on Wednesday against the Montreal Impact, Curtin used Saturday’s friendly as conditioning assignment for his starters and a show-me-something game for the players, like Union Homegrown Trusty, pushing to make an impression.

"I was always hungry before," Trusty said. "But now, you get a taste of it and you want more and you want more."

Simpson, who entered the game at the half for C.J. Sapong, tied the match at 2-2 with a miraculous play in the 58th minute. With possession and flying down the right side, he edged his defender off the rush and gained the box before sliding a right-footed touch that beat the outstretched arms of the goalkeeper and trickled over the goal line. Ilsinho received the primary assist.

“I was just trying to get it across the keeper,” said Simpson, a native of London who has friends on the Swansea side. “I didn’t get much power on it but I was trying to get it across the keeper. If he made the save, maybe someone could get the tap-in.”

But the Union's offense didn't start there. Preying on some early listlessness from the Swans, Marcus Epps, off a turnover at midfield, hit the right side with speed but was bumped down in the box by Martin Olsson, resulting in a penalty kick. Lining up for the kick was Sapong, who fooled Kristoffer Nordfeldt and placed his shot to the right for the early 1-0 lead. 

“The whole team caught them off guard,” Epps said. “I don’t think they thought we’d come out that strong and that fast. It was good that I could come on, change direction and catch them off guard a little.”

Union goalkeeper Jake McGuire wasn’t able to stop the Swans in the 28th minute and again in the 40th. Kyle Bartley followed up a mad scramble in the box to lock the game at one and Jordan Ayew took advantage of a missed clear from McGuire to give the Swans the 2-1 lead.

“Disappointing on the restarts, we talked about that,” Curtin said. “That is a team that is obviously very big, strong and physical. We didn’t do a good job, especially on the second balls. We have some takeaways, some things we can improve on. But overall I’m happy with the exercise tonight.”

Curtin made wholesale changes at half time. Entering the match was Simpson for Sapong, Charlie Davies for Fafa Picault, Ilsinho for Epps and Derrick Jones for Warren Creavalle. Brian Carroll replaced Haris Medunjanin, and Fabinho, Richie Marquez, Josh Yaro and Keegan Rosenberry entered for Giliano Wijnaldum, Trusty, Jack Elliott and Ray Gaddis. 

“It’s a great experience, especially playing against guys who play in a league you grew up watching,” McGuire said. “I think it was a great experience for all of us young guys who got to start for the first time tonight. It’s a real good experience for all of us.” 

Midway through the half, Ken Tribbett replaced Carroll, and took the captaincy, while Bethlehem Steel players Anthony Fontana and Aaron Jones replaced Keegan Rosenberry and Derrick Jones, to make their Union debut. Both young players made an impact.

“The debuts are special,” Curtin said. “To have it come against a Premier League team is unique, timing wise. Anthony gets it this year and he did a great job, he looked fearless and that’s what we want - we like players who aren’t scared. I think a lot of guys showed well tonight.”