Commentary

A closer look at Union II’s preseason

Photos: Marjorie Elzey

Information appears from time to time on social and other internet media concerning Philadelphia Union II’s preseason activities while we wait to learn more about where they will play this season. Four more preseason matches were announced last Friday for a total of six so far. We add what we can below so readers may more accurately interpret the data they find.

Results

On Saturday, March 6 the club scrimmaged Blaise Santangelo’s West Chester United Predators at YSC Academy’s outdoor turf field. Both sides wore uniforms and played under the aegis of three game officials. But they played three periods of unknown length rather than two 45-minute halves. The purpose of such a preseason activity is to condition and evaluate rather than accumulate points in a table, so speaking of wins and losses is irrelevant. Union II players accumulated three goals, while West Chester totaled one.

Brotherly Game recaps the activity well with many pictures. Face recognition of several players suggests that uniform numbers from last year are likely the same even though 2021’s preseason jerseys are nameless. Ben Ofeimu, Selmir Miscic, Dante Huckaby, and several others are all easily recognized by face. All are wearing the numbers they did last season. 

On Sunday afternoon, March 14 Union II scrimmaged FC Motown of Morristown, NJ in a closed-door preseason event at the Power Training Complex next to Subaru Park. Again, they played three 30-minute periods. The defenses kept a clean sheet and Union II scored twice from set pieces. The recap on the Union’s website hits all the bases.

The squad

A smile by coach, Marlon LeBlanc, after the Union II’s first home victory of the 2020 season.

Last season’s restrictions on inter-group mobility between the first team and Union II continue. Even after first-team deep reserves are identified and return from Florida, they would have to quarantine each way to pass between practice groups. Whether the length of the quarantine remains 14 days or has been reduced to seven remains unknown.

Below is our best but unconfirmed understanding of the individuals currently in the Union II virus contingency group. The list is recently updated but cannot be considered definitive. Relevant basic information is included. Names, graduation years, dates of birth, ages, and last year’s uniform numbers are accurate  Positions and plans are probable. 

The 11 players listed first started against West Chester in the first of March 6’s three periods, and the next five were mentioned as substitutes. Three keepers each got a period, one being a trialist whose age — nearly 25 — suggests he may be receiving a courtesy opportunity to stay sharp while his agent seeks to place him elsewhere. 

Here is the Motown lineup information.

  • 1st period: (4-4-2) Trialist GK; Anton Sorenson, Ben Ofeimu, Mani Diop, Jackson Gillman; Dante Huckaby (c), Diego Lopez, Jack Jasinski, Sean Bettenhausen; Caden Stafford, Anthony Ramirez.
  • 2nd period: (4-4-2) Ben Martino; Anton Sorenson, Ben Ofeimu, Mani Diop, Jackson Gillman; Dante Huckaby (c), Diego Lopez, Jack Jasinski, Sean Bettenhausen; Jake Spadafora, Anthony Ramirez.
  • 3rd period: (4-2-3-1) Mitch Budler; Anton Sorenson, Samuel Jones, Mani Diop, Jackson Gillman; Dante Huckaby (c), Jack Jasinski, Sean Bettenhausen (Ben Ofeimu 73’), Bajung Darboe; Anthony Ramirez (Jake Spadafora 73’), Ian Abbey.

They are at least six others in the group, but as policy we do not list adolescents who have not yet appeared. All are Philadelphia Union Academy degree candidates unless asterisked as professionals, except for Selmir Miscic who is already a pro but still an Academy senior and amateur Sean Bettenhausen who studies at Malvern Prep. 

“TBD” under “Current plans” means the player is old enough to speak with college coaches but has made no decisions, while “n/a” means he is too young to do so. Age is to the nearest tenth of a year as of Thursday, March  11.

Uni # 

Pos

Last name

First Name

Current plans

HS Grad 

DOB

Age

57

GK

Budler

Mitch

TBD

2021

1/3/03

18.2

62

LB

Sorenson

Anton

TBD

2022

1/25/03

18.1

44

LCB

Ofeimu

Ben

professional

2019

9/30/00

20.4

71

RCB

Diop

Mansour

TBD

2021

5/14/03

17.8

74

RB

Gilman

Jackson

TBD

2022

4/29/04

16.9

61

DCM

Huckaby ©

Dante

Louisville

2021

3/17/03

18.0

53

LCM

Bettenhausen

Sean

Penn State

2021

4/1/03

17.9

37

RCM

Selmir

Miscic

professional

2021

1/23/03

18.1

78

ACM

Ramirez

Anthony

n/a

2023

10/22/04

16.4

58

S

Jasinski

Jack

Princeton

2022

12/4/03

17.3

63

S

Borgelin

Shanyder

professional

2019

10/19/01

19.4

55

GK

Martino

Ben

VA Tech

2021

9/13/02

18.5

59

ACM

Abbey

Ian

Rutgers

2022

4/9/04

16.9

75

CB

Jones

Sam

Wake Forest

2022

2/14/04

17.1

56

M/S

Spadafora

Jake

Mich  State

2022

7/2/04

16.7

68

S

Stafford

Caden

Maryland

2021

9/28/03

17.5

73

S

Zambrano

Marcos

n/a

2025

1/20/05

16.1

72

DCM

Lopez

Diego

n/a

2023

4/12/05

15.9

Schedule information

In addition to the West Chester event, six other preseason “matches” have now been announced, and logic suggests there might be as many as two more in the 17-day gap between the away matches at Loudon and Hartford.

  • Date Opponent Location Time/Result
    March 6 West Chester United YSC Academy  3-1
    March 14 FC Motown Power Training Complex 2-0
    March 21 Vereinigung Erzgebirge Power Training Complex 1 p.m. ET
    March 27 Richmond Kickers Power Training Complex 1 p.m. ET
    April 3 @ Loudoun United Segra Field 2 p.m. ET
    April 21 @ Hartford Athletic TBD TBD
    April 25 Loudoun United Power Training Complex 2 p.m. ET

Currently, all events at the Power Training Complex in Chester are closed to the general public. 

Competitive quality

In past preseasons Bethlehem Steel FC had two hard-fought, useful preseason matches against FC Motown, while last fall Union II soundly defeated historic local powerhouse Vereinigung Erzgebirge (Warminster, PA). Both sides are part of the Northeast Elite Super League, which added Newtown Pride FC (Newtown, CT) to the six sides of the Northeast Elite Soccer League and changed its name but not its initials last fall. West Chester United, FC Christos (Baltimore), Jackson Lions (NJ), and Safira FC (Somerville, MA)  are the other league members.

Richmond Kickers now play in USL League One, having earlier been members of USL and tough competition for Bethlehem in the early years of the Union’s farm team.

Both Loudon and Hartford were in Union II’s group F last season in USLC.  Hartford won the group over Pittsburgh, while Loudon finished last behind Union II. Although the no-win record against Hartford is not ideal, three of four matches were intensely competitive: a draw, and two one-goal losses, together with the three-goal shutout. Union II played Loudon three times and never lost: a goal-less draw, a 1-1 draw, and a 4-0 win.

The match dates above strongly suggest Union II’s “regular season” will not begin until May. 

It seems entirely possible that Union II’s entire 2021 season might be these types of “friendlies” against top-quality regional teams from various levels of the soccer pyramid, although once USL sides begin league play they will probably not have space in their calendars for friendlies against Union II. Actual MLS sides might.

5 Comments

  1. In reference to moving between squads, Shanyder Borgelin started Saturday, March 6th for Union II against W. C. Utd in Wayne, PA, and then started the 2nd half about noon Monday, March 15th for the Union itself in Clearwater. That is a nine-day gap.
    .
    It seems fair to conclude that any quarantine period to move between teams is now no more than nine days.
    .
    Since the announced quarantine to begin preseason was said to be seven days, it is possible that it only takes seven days to move from one squad to the other. Brotherly Game has a picture on twitter from a Union practice in Clearwater with an individual who looks like he might be Borgelin. The tweet is dated March 14. That would reduce the number of days to eight.

  2. Sources indicate that at the end of the Motown match, Ben Ofeimu came on for Bettenhausen and played in the midfield. The also indicate that at some point CoachLeBlanc switched to a 4-2-3-1.
    .
    Consider a double pivot of Ofeimu and Huckaby in front of Jones and Diop. I cannot vouch for its offensive creativity, but it would be a forest of big tall trees in front of the critical area.
    .
    We know that at least once in his career at WVU the coach had a similar big tall tree at the 6, Jack Elliott.

  3. Union II just announced another preseason “match,” at Pittsburgh Riverhounds Saturday, May 1st.

  4. Union II just announced another preseason “match,” at Pittsburgh Riverhounds Saturday, May 1st.
    .
    Now we have batter idea why Coach LeBlanc tried Ofeimu and Huckaby together in a double pivot in front of Diop and Jones.

  5. Any idea on why Darboe isn’t on the roster listing?

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