Analysis / USL - Philadelphia Union II

Union II’s decimated striker corps

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

Patrick Bohui now leads the Philadelphia Union II in scoring. He has two goals.

If two seems low, the USL Championship season was roughly halved by the coronavirus, and most of Philadelphia Union II’s half was further delayed 29 days by a positive COVID-19 test and its consequent safety protocols, delays, and extra cardiovascular and pulmonary tests that we now know are necessary to ensure athletes can safely resume practicing and playing. 

Fewer goals scored makes sense. Bohui scored his second in only the team’s ninth game of the season on September 12. However Bohui being the scoring leader highlights a major point about 2020’s Union II strikers.

The 16.8-year-old Academy amateur was not supposed to be a frontline striker when the roster was planned last winter. Although he had some substitution cameos and a start last year, he made his first 2020 appearance on August 1, four games into the restart. Four other strikers had been ahead of him on the depth chart, three of whom specialize in the position. The fourth is a versatile pro who had proved in 2019 that he could produce at striker as well as in the midfield and on defense.

Bohui’s six appearances (four starts) in the last seven weeks illustrate that the Philadelphia Union II’s 2020 striker corps has been beyond decimated by injury. “Beyond” applies because literal decimation, an ancient Roman military punishment, executed every tenth man in the unit. Even if you include every player (three) who has appeared as an improvised striker, the 2020 striker casualty rate is four out of nine. That is more than four times the rate of decimation.

The details

Shanyder Borgelin, two starts and 135 minutes, Yomi Scintu, four starts and 210, Saed Diaz, no starts and 96, and Issa Rayyan, two starts, a third appearance and 180, were preseason’s top four. Union II have played 10 games and 900 minutes. (Stoppage time makes up for time lost and so is not counted officially.)

Borgelin and Scintu started against Loudon at Subaru Park back on March 7. Diaz was still regaining fitness from 2019’s injuries, and Rayyan was a halftime substitute for Nate Harriel at right back since both were recovering from preseason knocks.

When play resumed July 18 versus Pittsburgh, Borgelin and Scintu only played the first half. Diaz came on for one of them at the interval, and a formation change accounted for the other. During play Borgelin had broken a bone in his foot that required surgical repair and has been unavailable and recovering ever since. Scintu had simply played badly. Rayyan was recovering from a concussion and jaw damage suffered in training earlier that week and did not play. 

In the next match against Red Bulls II, Scintu played better for 67 minutes and fed a beautiful lofted ball to Selmir Miscic for Union II’s only goal during the Red Bulls II’s victorious rout. Rayyan played the first half in a protective mask at left back. Diaz came on for the last 23 minutes, but injured, or perhaps re-injured, some adductor muscles while playing.

Up in Hartford three days later Scintu scored the opening goal in the sixth minute but was struck on the side of the knee while following through on his shot. He suffered what is thought to have been a meniscus tear, and has been unavailable ever since. Selmir Miscic started as his striker partner. Scintu’s knee and Diaz’s absence meant the club shifted shapes, from a 4-2-2-2 with two strikers and two defensive central mids, to a 4-3-2-1 with one and three. There were no recognized striker possibilities  on the five-person field-player bench, since Paxten Aaronson had not yet demonstrated that potential in USLC.

Rayyan played that full Hartford match in his mask, but suffered blows to the head doing so. We know that afterwards he went back into the concussion protocol for the second time in under two weeks, necessitating a much longer stay there since repetition endangers brains. Now, he is no longer “unavailable” officially, but has not been listed on a match roster since that July day in Connecticut.

Diaz did appear as a substitute for the last 28 minutes against Atlanta II on September 2, but has not dressed for the three games since, although officially he too is not “unavailable.”

Coach Marlon LeBlanc’s mid-September striker cohort is Bohui, fellow Academy teenager Caden Stafford with no starts and 29 minutes, and three attacking midfielders: Axel Picazo, Miscic, and the younger Aaronson. That is far different from what was planned last December. The difference helps explain why the youngest team in USLC has scored only eight goals, tied for dead last in the entire league. 

2 Comments

  1. Bohui looks good. I wonder if they get him a homegrown contract eventually. He seems the closest to the first time to my completely ignorant eyes.

    • I don’t know the homegrown player rules well enough to answer a very good question. He has been playing in the academy as long as Selmir Miscic, which goes back to Earnie Stewart’s tenure as sporting director.
      .
      So he’s been resident in this country for a while, and has been in the Academy for well more than the year.
      .
      He is beginning to show effectiveness in USLC. How that translates to MLS we have not seen at striker outside of Cory Burke. Burke was several years older when he made the transition.
      .
      Michee Ngalina is much closer to Bohui in age, and has not yet had a minute this season. He appeared in the Open Cup in earlier years.
      .
      The physical transition is tough, and Jim Curtin has to be confident in your defensive effectiveness. The only player for whom that requirement has been bent even slightly is Ilsinho, and Ilsinho does everything he can on defense, has worked hard and improved greatly.
      .
      Bohui was a moose for a 15 y/o, but has not grown much since.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*