USL - Philadelphia Union II

LeBlanc returns as 2021 Union II coach

Photos: Marjorie Elzey

Former West Virginia University men’s soccer head Marlon LeBlanc is returning as interim head coach of Philadelphia Union II in 2021. Philadelphia Union Communications confirmed his return late Friday afternoon.

LeBlanc first appeared as Union II head on August 5, in the fifth game of the 2020 season’s restart, replacing Sven Gartung as Union II’s leader. LeBlanc later said he had begun working with the team two days before the game.

A smile by coach, Marlon LeBlanc, after the Union II’s first home victory of the season.

The game was a 3-2 win over a team that had beaten them 5-1 two weeks before. He completed the remaining 11 games of Union II’s USL Championship season, and then led them five more times in post-season friendlies — against three of the more “local” sides in the Northeast Elite Soccer League, as well as NPSL’s Junior Lone Star of Philadelphia, and New York Red Bulls Academy U-19s.

LeBlanc changed some of the 2020 Union II’s ways of doing things.  He more heavily emphasized playing Academy 16- and 17-year-olds at the expense of the older players on his roster. And he deliberately played them in positions adjacent to their primaries to round out both their physical skills and their mental understandings.

To illustrate through example, Dante Huckaby, who had previously been a fixture at left center back behind a double pivot, began to play as a single defensive center mid. Brandan Craig, earmarked by Ernst Tanner as a defensive central mid, not only played there but also at both center backs. Defensive center mid Danny Flores began appearing further forward as an attacking midfielder.

LeBlanc’s developmental technique increases interchangeability. He develops players’ weaker feet. And he forces mental awareness of alternative perspectives.He increases versatility, one of soccer’s holier grails ever since Cruyff, Neeskins, the Clockwork Orange Dutch national teams, and total soccer.

LeBlanc focused less on maximizing the minutes of his substitutes off the bench at the expense of successful flows of play, and his squad rotation moves seemed more aware of the strengths of the day’s specific opponent.

The elephant in the room remains the Union II’s competitive platform for 2021. In an interview published by MLSItalia.com, sporting director Ernst Tanner indicated further information should emerge soon, and LeBlanc himself apparently intimated something similar to the West Virginia publication.

Nothing concrete about the forthcoming season has emerged since the mid-October 2020 announcement that Union II had withdrawn from the United Soccer League Championship.

4 Comments

  1. Should he sill be called “Interim” head coach? Pleased they brought him back.

    • The confirmation from Union communications was overt that he was still the interim head coach.
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      My guess is that there will be no announcements of changes until all reasonable questions can be answered about Union II for 2021. Tanner has said in the past that that is more his style, to wait until things are reliably settled.

  2. Everything written here makes me think he’s a great hire.
    .
    “he deliberately played them in positions adjacent to their primaries to round out both their physical skills and their mental understandings.”
    I really like this.

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