Stoke City's trip to the United States for matches against MLS clubs in preparation for the English Premier League season had been going smoothly until its last stop in Philadelphia on Tuesday night.
The English side defeated the Union, 2-0, in a friendly match at PPL Park, but the victory was soured by an apparently serious injury to American midfielder Brek Shea's left knee. He was hurt on a hard tackle by Union defender Matt Kassel.
Shea awaits tests on his knee on Wednesday, but Stoke City manager Mark Hughes did not sound optimistic. Shea might have sustained ligament damage, Hughes said.
"I thought it was a very, very poor challenge," Hughes said. "I don't know what the hell [Kassel] was thinking."
Shea was playing in his first match with Stoke City since he scored the winning goal for the United States in a 1-0 victory over Panama in the Gold Cup final on Sunday. He went to the turf on a foul by Kassel in the 27th minute. Kassel received a yellow card on the play, and Shea limped to the locker room with the assistance of a pair of trainers.
Shea said he was not upset with Kassel, and added that Kassel apologized as he left the field.
"He was going for the ball," Shea said. "I tried to put my body in front of his. It's soccer; tackles happen."
The 23-year-old Shea put Stoke City ahead, 2-0, in the 19th minute with a skillful finish off his left foot. With the Union starting many of their substitutes, Stoke City capitalized and scored both its goals off aptly-placed crosses.
Michael Kightly also scored for Stoke City.
The Union inserted most of their regulars after halftime. Manager John Hackworth said the large-scale substitution was the plan all along.
"It was a good opportunity for us to get guys out and make sure they have the sensations of starting a game, going through warm-ups, listening to the national anthem . . . All those kinds of things are really important for players," Hackworth said.
Midfielder Danny Cruz and forwards Connor Casey and Sebastian Le Toux gave the Union life offensively in the second half but could not find a way to break Stoke City's back line.
The Union will return to their MLS schedule with a home game against Chicago on Saturday.
The Fire "can't drop any points, and we can't drop any points at this point," said Union forward Antoine Hoppenot. "We're so close to the playoffs . . . It's going to be an intense game."