USL - Philadelphia Union II

Offseason updates from Union II

Photo: Sean Griswold

The latest Union II news is that the first team has signed its multi-position defender Brandan Craig and its midfielder Quinn Sullivan to Homegrown contracts effective January 01, 2021. Craig and Sullivan join Jack McGlynn, Nate Harriel, and Paxten Aaronson as future Homegrowns, raising 2020’s total of future Homegrowns signed from Union II to five. Given the pandemic, Craig and Sullivan are still practicing and playing with the Union II in an unfolding series of post-season “friendlies” that are mentioned further down.

While Anthony Fontana and Brenden Aaronson each played for the first team when still in high school at the Academy, never before have their classrooms held four first-teamers at once, as they will from New Year’s Day 2021. It is not five because Harriel graduated in 2019 and spent academic 2019-20 doing a post-graduate year.

Craig and Sullivan

Craig’s promotion comes as no surprise to those who watched the Union II’s final season of competition in USL championship. He played right back, left and right center back, and defensive central midfielder, debuting as a second-half substitute against New York Red Bulls II July 22nd. He started or subbed on in all 14 subsequent games of the season, totaling 1062 minutes making eleven starts.

He usually changed the games when playing against other MLS 2 sides, and held his own against the older fully-adult independent ones, a nice accomplishment for a player who was only 16-and-a-half on the final day of the season playing against Bob Lilley’s Pittsburgh Riverhounds. He was clearly ready for promotion. The only question was to what level.

Fellow 16-year-old Sullivan’s elevation was less obvious from his USLC record, but an Ernst Tanner comment gives an important causative clue. The sporting director says Sullivan has an incredible engine. The Union like “volume midfielders,” middies who cover incredible amounts of ground. Sullivan debuted the game before Craig July 18th in Pittsburgh, but accumulated only 223 minutes with one start in nine appearances. In recent “friendlies” against New York Red Bulls U-19s and Vereinigung Erzgebirge (see below) he scored a brace against each.

Tanner’s other major descriptive point is that both players will add competitive fire to first-team practices.  He said the team will start wearing shinguards in practice, that now “it will be on” in part because of the two newcomers.

The additions of Craig and Sullivan bring the Union’s likely 2021 roster size to  27, at least at the moment, including Mark McKenzie. MLS’s announcement last Thursday of the postseason roster-adjustment mechanisms’ schedule states that teams in the playoffs must announce their roster decisions the day after they have been eliminated. Only then will definitive Union roster announcements appear.

Other Union II details

By now Union-watchers know that Keystone Sports’ professional elite youth player development side is in transition from the division two United Soccer League Championship to an unknown destination.

Since the organization’s formal communications apparatus is — understandably! — focused on the first-team’s recent successes, the only actual additions to information about Union II on its website have been three videos of Union II players performing individual technical skills: Axel Picazo, Issa Rayyan, and Danny Flores.

But there has been some activity on Twitter, @PhilaUnionII.  And of course Matt Ralph and Brotherly Game have been paying good attention.

Here are some recent details from those sources. Upon none of them has the organization’s busy communications apparatus given comment or confirmation, apart from the tweeting on @PhilaUnionII, the team’s official twitter feed.

  1. After a week off following the end of their final USL Championship season, the team resumed training. In one photo a parka-wearing individual looking like Marlon LeBlanc was standing along a sideline looking out at the pitch.
  2. Jim Curtin has mentioned that Jack McGlynn and Nate Harriel had been practicing with the first team when McGlynn was hurt.
  3. Earlier in the fall, Paxten Aaronson had not yet joined first-team practice along with the other two. Apparently, however, has he not appeared in the friendlies listed below.
  4. As of Sunday, November 15th, four “friendlies” are certain to have been played against local or single-day-round-trip amateur sides. All used uniformed referees, all photos show the team in its 2020 official, numbered uniforms, and three have been played at home.
    1. October 24, they played Baltimore’s Christos FC of the Northeast Elite Soccer League at the Power Training Complex, losing 3-1.
    2. November 2, they played Blaise Santangelo’s West Chester United adult team, the Predators, under the lights at Subaru Park, winning 5-0 when Santangelo rested his starters in the second half in preparation for an impending NESL match against Vereinigung Erzgebirge. It had been 1-0 at halftime.
    3. Saturday or Sunday, November 7 or 8, they played MLS NEXT’s New York Red Bulls U-19s at Power Training , winning 7-2 with Sullivan securing an above-mentioned brace.
    4. Sunday, November 15 they played Vereinigung Erzgebirge. They were ahead 5-0 in windy conditions at halftime behind the second Quinn Sullivan brace, and they finished 8-2 with second-half goals from Shanyder Borgelin, Selmir Miscic, and Axel Picazo. The exact VE team and the venue are unclear as of this writing.
    5. Thursday, November 19 they are expected to play local Philadelphia amateur side Junior Lone Star.
    6. Rumor suggests there may have been one other match, perhaps earlier, perhaps against an unidentified NESL side. The other members of the NESL include the Jackson (NJ) Lions, FC Motown (Morristown, NJ), and from further away Safira of Sommerville, Massachusetts. Newtown Pride seems not to be participating this season.
  1.  In past Bethlehem Steel preseasons FC Motown and West Chester United had proved excellent quality scrimmage opponents more than once, and Newtown Pride had been a charitable fund-raiser opponent. Using NESL teams to provide Union II with late-fall game minutes builds on past contacts.
  2. The 18 players below have either been listed on Twitter or can be identified in photographs by face or uniform number. Positions are inferred, not confirmed nor observed, and numbers assume no change from the USLC season, except for newcomer Manu Diop whose information comes from a photo. The list is known to be incomplete by at least three.
# Pos Name # Pos Name
55 GK Ben Martino 63 S Shanyder Borgelin*
62 LB Anton Sorenson 68 S Caden Stafford
50 LCB/DCM Brandan Craig 56 M Danny Flores
71 RCB Mansour Diop 59 M Axel Picazo
40 RB Issa Rayyan* 42 LCB Jamoi Topey*
61 DCM Dante Huckaby 44 RCB Ben Ofeimu*
58 CM Jack Jasinski 53 M Sean Bettenhausen
51 CM Quinn Sullivan 57 GK Mitch Budler
37 ACM Selmir Miscic* (64) GK (Tomas Romero)

(NCAA rules forbid Tomas Romero from playing in matches alongside signed professionals, but he can practice.) Asterisked players have already signed professional contracts with what is now the Union II.

  1. Patrick Bohui has left the Union Academy and joined the FC Cincinnati organization.
  2. Since the end of the season, there is no direct evidence for the continued presence of the following individuals, but that does not prove they are gone: Saed Diaz, David Rabadan, Steve Kingue, Yomi Scintu, and Zach Zandi.
  3. Nor is there evidence of the presence of mystery man Elias Thomas.  It seems extremely unlikely that a young German defender, possibly brought here  through Ernst Tanner contacts, has had time to adapt, be assessed fairly, and leave. (Thomas was listed once, in the game guide for the final USLC match, but at that time he was rumored to not yet be match fit.)
  4. Tomas Romero’s reported presence may be the organization extending a practice opportunity as a courtesy to a local academy alumnus whose university side is not playing this fall. In past years similar courtesies have been extended to others. If he is doing his coursework remotely from Cherry Hill, as he learned to do at the Academy, practice with Union II would make sense. That conclusion is purest guesswork.
  5. With Union II having left USLC and its minimum requirement of twelve signed professional players, it is unclear what role being signed as a professional to the farm team will continue to play in Keystone Sports’ roster building. The question will not be answered until the team’s final destination — allegedly some type of MLS reserve league — is discovered, together with its rules. Right now Union II is playing with a mixture of academy amateurs and paid professionals.

3 Comments

  1. Always a pleasure to read your work. Thank you.

  2. Zakary Petroski says:

    Trying to get into the MLS.I do not have cable. Cannot watch very many games. When I do get to watch a game. I like it very much. GO UNION !!!!

  3. Puyol el Campio says:

    Thanks Tim, always a pleasure reading your updates on the young guns. Wonder what the story was on Patrick Bohui? Was he unlikely to get a first team signing and thus moved on, or did Cincintatti poach one of our better prospects?

Leave a Reply

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

*

%d bloggers like this: