Commentary / USL - Philadelphia Union II

A very close look at Union II’s 2020 players

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

Here, I’ll present all 26 current Union II players but discuss in detail only those who have had enough starts and minutes to have been fully evaluated towards 2021 promotion decisions for either level. Historically “full evaluation” has usually meant 8-10 games or more, mostly starts, and 7-800 total minutes at least.

The primary focus is readiness for the first team. Future second team composition is always heavily influenced by the first’s, so predicting it is difficult until the first team is in focus.

I list my expected veteran departures and the younger, less experienced academy amateurs in two separate tables of essential data following the discussion of individuals. I find it interesting and possibly significant that the final two game-day rosters were exclusively Academy products, current or past.

18-year-old German defender Elias Thomas was listed in the final game guide of the season, but I know nothing more of substance. He has not dressed, so I do not count him in my 26.

I omit players who left at the usual NCAA departure time, since they are no longer in this season’s picture.  But Mark McKenzie – and Issa Rayyan – suggests that entirely writing off NCAA departures is unwise.

These notes apply to what follows.

  • The season numbered 16 games, roughly half a normal season.
  • Strict isolation and quarantine have prevented free player interchange between teams. The first-teamers who came down after the restart remained to practice there until Union II’s season finished Saturday and are now in quarantine to return to the Union.
  • Player-sorting by position follows coach LeBlanc’s usage. Major differences from coach Gartung are noted.
  • For 364 days of the year people are actually older than their last birthday, so average age is calculated to the actual day and rounded to years and tenths of years, 17 years 6 months = 17.5 years.
  • Asterisks indicate academy amateurs.

Strikers: None are yet candidates to join the first team. The gap between USLC strikers and MLS ones is wide, and Union II has no one who has produced stand-out numbers at the lower level.

Neither Yomi Scintu nor Saed Diaz will returnTheir particulars are in the appropriate table below.

Patrick Bohui*, and Caden Stafford* are Academy amateurs with limited minutes whose immediate futures lie with Union II. They each played 88 minutes in the season finale at Pittsburgh. They are listed in a table below.

Shanyder Borgelin, a 6’3” 19.0-year-old 185-pound striker on a 2020 guaranteed contract, broke his foot in the first restart game against Pittsburgh July 18.  Repairing the injury required surgery. He was listed as unavailable until the last day of September and has not dressed since mid-July.

Between the virus and injury he has lost a full season of development . His 2021 option will be exercised, given his age, his potential, and the current make-up of the first-team’s striker cohort.

Midfielders: Two have already been signed to the first team for 2021.

Zach Zandi will almost certainly not return.

Quinn Sullivan* and Sean Bettenhausen* are listed below among the academy amateurs. Neither affected matches.

Axel Picazo*a 5’10” 150-pound 19.5year-old whose contract status and future intentions remain mysteries, has appeared in every game for the Philadelphia Union II as either a midfielder, an attacking midfielder, or an emergency striker, starting 12, totaling 940 minutes.

He has impacted almost every match positively, consistently being pacey, aggressive, and creative. And on at least one occasion he was brilliant. In the win over Red Bulls II with his back to goal, he side-footed a mini-lob over his own head to himself, turned while the ball was in the air, and half-volleyed a shot off the crossbar. The commentators said, correctly, it would have been goal of the year had he scored it. But he seems rated behind the two 17-year-olds who have already signed with the first team for 2021, a rating that does not pass the eye test in the case of Paxton Aaronson.

Issa Rayyan, 2019 and early 2020’s “Mr. Versatility,” is a 5’10” 20.1-year-old attacking midfielder who has also appeared at left back, right back, midfield and striker this season amid various injuries. He has not played center back, defensive center mid, or goalkeeper.

He is a June 2018 YSC Academy graduate who was ACC freshman of the year that fall at Duke before signing with Union II in February of 2019. His contract for 2020, his second year in USLC, is guaranteed, suggesting a USLC option might be available for 2021.

He suffered a broken nose and damage to a jaw in practice before the restart’s first match against Pittsburgh. He then wore a protective mask, starting and playing the first half in the next match against Red Bulls II and going the full 90 at the following match in Hartford. But blows suffered in Connecticut placed him back into the concussion protocol in addition to whatever else physically happened to his head. He reappeared September 23 for 16 minutes as a striker sub against Hartford, then at halftime at right back against Red Bulls II September 26, and in the 64th minute in the midfield against Hartford September 30. He dressed but did not play in the finale against Pittsburgh.

He affects USLC matches in ways his younger replacements have not. But the Union have signed a younger outside back and two younger midfielders ahead of him. In preseason he appeared with the first team at striker in early scrimmages, so first-team coaches have worked with him before. He could easily return to Union II next season as an Ancient Veteran, using a healthy season to audition for the first-team.

Jack McGlynna 17.3-year-old 5’11” 140-pound attacking midfielder, signed his Union II professional contract March 6, 2020. On August 17 he signed a pre-contract with the Union itself as a Homegrown Player for 2021.

He is a junior at YSC Academy. He has made 14 appearances, 13 of them starts, totaling 1123 minutes. He became the youngest Union II or Bethlehem player to make USLC’s Team of the Week, displacing Brenden Aaronson who had been six months older when he did it two seasons ago, and McGlynn has been so honored a second time. He leads the team in goals (5) and assists (3),

He plays effectively at the USLC level against all opponents in all three midfield roles, being complimented by Ernst Tanner for the speed and effectiveness with which he learned his newest, DCM. He has a knack for what the statistics mavens call “key passes.” He is the leading candidate to have an effect of the first team next season.

Selmir Miscic, a 17.7-year-old 5’8” 135 pound attacking midfielder and emergency striker, signed his initial professional contract September 12, 2018 with Bethlehem. For 2020 it remains guaranteed, suggesting a probable option for 2021.

This season he has 10 appearances, five starts, a goal, no assists and 417minutes played. His knack for being in the right place at the right time continues, as unfortunately does his slight physical stature and unexceptional ground coverage and pace.

His long-term future with the Union probably depends on his unlikely development into what the organization calls a “volume midfielder.” The signings of McGlynn and Paxton Aaronson to the first-team probably displace him. But a year remains before a final decision must be made, Union II need a minimum of 12 professionals, and a nose for goal is a nose for goal.

If his USLC option is not exercised, he is well-known and will continue to play somewhere.

Paxton Aaronson*, a 17.1-year-old attacking midfielder and junior at YSC Academy was signed to a Union pre-contract August 19. Since he is enrolled at YSC Academy, he will continue to play for Union II as an amateur until 2021.

He has appeared 14 times for Union II with ten starts totaling 923 minutes. with a goal and an assist. He epitomizes a volume midfielder. When watching him run while defending, one sees a clone of his older brother.

Ernst Tanner’s comments on his signing are informative, instructive, and authoritative, much more so than my impressions.

David Rabadana 20.4-year-old 6’0” 169-pound left-footed central midfielder on loan from Spain’s second division, has appeared in 12 games of the restart, starting seven for a total of 670 minutes. Gartung used him as one of his two “sixes,” but LeBlanc uses him as a center midfielder as well.

His age is against him returning. This is only his first year with the club and I do not know the details of his loan agreement. Danny Flores provides him direct competition and seems to affect matches more consistently.

Gartung said Rabadan accepts practice instruction in English, always a question for non-native speakers. His absence in the last few matches does not suggest a return.

Danny Flores*, an 18.5-year-old 5’11” 168-pound defensive central midfielder, has already graduated from YSC Academy, but is returning for a postgraduate year.

He has played all 16 games, starting seven, and totaling 829 minutes. He had the assist on Axel Picazo’s goal at Hartford, and a penalty kick goal against Red Bulls II. He makes a difference clearly and consistently. When Scintu went down at  Hartford, Gartung instantly sent Flores on and changed shape to  an unpracticed alignment without hesitation, which states that Flores was his eleventh best-available field player.

Coach LeBlanc has been using him as an attacking midfielder also, consistent with his stated philosophy of playing boys at other positions to increase their versatility and overall understanding of the game.

His PG status means the organization has until August 2021 to evaluate his potential, and from his perspective it preserves his NCAA amateur status. Union II has roster space at DCM. but the first-team is crowded there. The organization is thin at the other midfield positions, so increasing his versatility is a good thing.

Defenders: One has already signed with the Union for 2021, and another might.

I do not expect Jamoi Topey or Steve Kingue to return.

Jack Jasinski lacks the starts and total minutes for a full evaluation, although the organization has to love his three-line versatility. As the defender-playing-striker he scored the winner against Red Bulls II in coach LeBlanc’s debut. He is the defender in the table below.

Ben Ofeimu, a 6’4” 20.0-year-old 200-pound right center back, is completing his second year as a professional in USLC. He had played every minute of the season until Atlanta 2, when he came on at halftime.  He started and played every minute in Tampa, then started against New York, but came off at halftime. He has been listed as questionable, then unavailable until September 30 when he was no longer listed on th injury report and he dressed against Pittsburgh for the finale.October 3.

His second-year play, while not perfect, has been much more reliable than it was last year in 2019 he was trying to learn a new defensive scheme and its mind-set on the fly.

He is 20, so it could be decision-time. His determined perseverance is in his favor. So is his record of comparative success against Pittsburgh, the best team in the group. The speed with which he learns new things and applies the knowledge on the pitch may not be. Young Brandan Craig probably rates ahead of him, overall, but the USLC 12 pros requirement could see him return for a final season.

But if the Union do not want him, someone else who plays a less aggressive 4-2-3-1 will. As an amateur Ofeimu played that system excellently in 2018 for Coach Burke’s Bethlehem playoff winner.

Nate Harriel is a 5’11” 19.5-year-old 169-pound Academy post-graduate right back who on July 17 this year was signed to a Union II contract and a Union pre-contract effective 1/1/21. The Union traded their first-round draft pick in the 2021 Super Draft to acquire his Homegrown Player rights from Orlando, so he will fit into a supplemental roster slot on 2021’s roster compliance day.

He took a forearm to the head in the restart’s third match against Hartford in Connecticut and came off in the 60thminute.  He was in the concussion protocol but has resumed practicing and, since the Tampa game, playing. He has rebuilt lost match fitness. He has been a regular at right back when healthy and fully fit, and played center back acceptably in a pinch last season. He came off at halftime 9/26 against Red Bulls II but it may have been just a cramp since he played the full 90 four days later.chalking up an assist and also against Pittsburgh Saturday.

When discussing Harriel with the Inquirer’s Jonathan Tannenwald earlier this summer, the YSC Academy head of school commented that Ernst Tanner likes the smartest players.

Dante Huckaby*, a 5’11” 17.6-year-old 161-pound left center back who also fills in well at left back, has played every minute of every Union II game this season. He is most comfortable and effective as a center back, but improved noticeably game-to-game on the outside left of the defense, and has gotten some minutes as a DCM.

If Topey, Kingue and Ofeimu all move on, he will be a cornerstone of 2021’s defensive rebuild as an amateur 18-year-old high school senior. If he paired with 16-year-old Brandan Craig, they would exemplify Tanner’s changes to the Union’s elite youth player development side. They would be the central defensive core of a professional soccer team while still in high school.

Brandan Craig is a late addition to this list, having made his first appearance for Union II July 22. He has 14 appearances, 11 starts, 1066 minutes and has been named captain several times. Although he is the youngest player discussed at 16.5-years-old, if he had a clone both would start for Union II absent Cole Turner, one at DCM in a double pivot and one at center back.

When playing against other player development sides he impacts the game, offensively as well as defensively. He has been adequate in his games against adult professionals to date. As a center back, he seems already to intuit when to be highly aggressive in the offensive half. He shares free kick service duties with McGlynn and Aaronson. He has been exposed for pace at center back once.

Whatever the standings may say, Pittsburgh is far and away the best team in the group.  Craig started at left center back and played an effective 90 minutes, so he presents a body of work sufficient for a full evaluation and might possibly be signed to a Homegrown first team roster spot for 2021. If not, almost certainly he will sign with Union II for a year of growth and seasoning playing against adult professionals..

The final name is Anton Sorenson, a diminutive 17.7-year-old Academy junior left back who has a great deal to learn about playing Ernst Tanner’s 4-4-2 gegenpress. He is second on the team in interceptions with 27. But he gets caught up the field by counterattacks, badly and repeatedly, although we don’t know whether left center backs are expected to shift out to cover.  He also needs more size and strength. Pace and offensive instincts are clear strengths.

He needs at least another full year of professional play before he might be a candidate for promotion out of USLC, as well as a full year in the commissary eating and in the weight room lifting. He could easily sign with Union II for 2021.

Goalkeepers: Neither Ben Martino nor Mitch Budler are ready for promotion to the pros. Avoiding mistakes and making every save a competent professional should make are the challenges. They will have the first two-thirds of the 2021 season to make a case for becoming pros.

The others

I do not expect these two-year veterans to return. Their game stats are for this season only.

Name Pos Age Last Apps Starts Min Comment
Zach Zandi CM 24.2 10/3 4 1 114 Old & hurt; top USLC mid, but will play elsewhere
Yomi Scintu S 23.4 7/25 4 4 210 Not productive at USLC level in two years; age
Saed Diaz S 21.3 9/2 3 0 96 Even less productive & cannot stay healthy
Jamoi Topey LCB 20.7 9/26 8 7 429 Intimidated by adult pros, poor learning curve
Steve Kingue D 20.7 9/26 12 8 652 Defensively versatile, highly athletic.

 

These Academy amateurs are learning what it takes to succeed as adult professionals, the field players primarily as subs.

Name Pos Age Grad Yr Apps Starts Mins Hgt Wgt Hometown
Mitch Budler GK 17.8 2021 6 6 540 6’1” 199 Lincoln, NE
Ben Martino GK 18.1 2021 3 3 270 6’6” 194 Pittsburgh, PA
Quinn Sullivan AM 16.5 2021 9 1 225 5’9” 148 Philadelphia, PA
Jack Jasinski RB 16.8 2022 9 2 389 6’0” 160 Charlotte, NC
Patrick Bohui S 16.8 2022 12 8 618 5’9” 150 Abidjan, Ivory Coast
Caden Stafford S 17.0 2022 8 4 440 6’0” 160 Cincinnatus, NY
Lukas Burns* GK 18.4 2020 6’5” 187 Cinnaminson, NJ
Sean Bettenhausen CM 17.5 2021 3 1 65 6’0” 150 Wayne, PA

 

4 Comments

  1. Thank you for this, I was looking forward to it. With the recent HG success the first team is having I have become more interested in Union II since we are bearing witness the the pipeline in the action.

    I agree with McGlynn being most likely to effect the first team. I look forward to seeing how his passing and vision translate to the next level.

    As for Union 2 next year, the players I am most interesting in continuing to watch are Stafford and Sorenson.

  2. Great stuff, Tim, as always.

  3. Kyle Singer says:

    I think McGlynn will be our best ever homegrown to date. Craig will be up their too after most likely 1 more season with U2.

  4. Kyle Singer says:

    I think Jack McGlynn will be our best ever homegrown to date. Craig will be up to their too after most likely 1 more season with U2.

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