Analysis / USL - Philadelphia Union II

A Union 2 preseason update

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

Philadelphia Union 2’s preseason schedule has temporarily slowed down, so it is a good time to update what is known — or guessed — so far.

No further concrete information exists about what will await the side later this summer and fall.

  • Logic suggests the next major waypoint for all teams potentially involved in an  MLS U-23 reserve league, not just Union 2, would come at the beginning of the new NCAA/MLS NEXT cycle in August. (Addendum 4/17/21: The explanation for civilians of the 2021 MLS roster rules in its presentation of the Homegrown International Player Rule makes no provision for the existence of an MLS U-23 reserve league, as it might have done were there a plan well advanced toward realization.)
  • In the meantime, the pattern that has existed since late last October should continue. Union 2 will probably play “friendlies” against high quality, amateur-cum-former professional, geographically accessible sides. Such can be found in the Northeast Elite Soccer League’s so-called Super League of — now — seven teams that have champion-like pedigrees in region 1 of the the United States Amateur Soccer Association. Pittsburgh and Greater Boston are NESL’s geographic outliers. Newtown Pride of Newtown, CT might be added independently, as might Philadelphia Junior Lone Star.
  • As has always been the case, within the limitations imposed by COVID-19 some Union 2 matches may be used to condition the first-team’s deep reserves, as likely happened April 9 in a preseason scrimmage against USLC side New York Red Bulls II. Sunday, April 25’s match at Hartford the day after the first-team’s home opener could be so used, particularly if tap-off is in the evening. But the next weekend’s match against Pittsburgh might be more difficult since it is the across the state the same day the Union host NYC FC.
The squad

The three charts below list all players thought to be attached.

Currently Playing

Pos Name Plans Grad Age Aps Minutes
GK Budler, Mitch TBD 2021 18.3 3 30+30+18
GK Martino, Ben VA Tech 2021 18.6 3 30+30+30
LB Sorenson, Anton TBD 2022 18.2 4 ??+90+18+75
RB Gilman, Jackson TBD 2022 17.0 3 ??+90+77
RCB Diop, Mani TBD 2021 17.9 4 ??+90+18+45
S/M Jasinski, Jack Princeton 2022 17.4 4 ??+90+90+90
DCM Huckaby, Dante © Louisville 2021 18.1 4 ??+90+90+90
LCM Bettenhausen, Sean Penn State 2021 18.0 4 ??+90+90+90
ACM Ramirez, Anthony n/a 2023 16.5 4 ??+60+90+90
S Stafford, Caden Maryland 2021 17.5 2 30+18+45
S Darboe, Bajung n/a 2024 14.4 2 30+72
ACM Abbey, Ian Rutgers 2022 17.0 4 ??+30+65+15
M/S Spadafora, Jake Mich  State 2022 16.8 4 ??+17+65+18
CB Jones, Sam Wake Forest 2022 17.2 4 ??+30+90+45
DCM Lopez, Diego n/a 2023 16.0 2 60+72+90
S Mazzola, Marcello n/a 2023 16.3 1 25
RB Oliver, Logan n/a 2023 16.0 1 25


“TBD” means the individual is eligible to talk with college coaches.  “n/a” means he is still too young, June 15 starting the next talking cycle. Substitution timings were unavailable for the West Chester United match, hence “??”.

No starting lineup or substitutions are known for the recent NY Red Bulls II event, so it does not appear in the data above. And Twitter photographs posted by Red Bulls II demonstrate that first team reserves played: Nate Harriel, Cole Turner, Quinn Sullivan, probably Brandan Craig, and a sometime Union 2 trialist from West Chester United Predators are identifiable. The Red Bulls II match occurred only six days after the Loudoun one was abruptly cancelled for unannounced reasons, which supports the theory that Union 2 players likely did not play since current virus safety protocols probably prevent the two squads from mixing.

Current roster assets being loaned (and sold?) – 1 known and 2 guessed

Name Grad Age Comments
Selmir, Miscic 2021 18.2 North Carolina FC
Ofeimu, Ben 2019 20.5 ? in negotiation ?
Borgelin, Shanyder 2019 19.5 ? this summer?


Eligibility resolved

Name Plans Grad Age Comments
Zambrano, Marcos n/a 2025 16.2 Once last fall


Developmental tracks

The squad is grouped below by their estimated future prospects. The estimate does not include the three passed-over professionals.

The estimate uses philosophical principle, known starts and substitutions, various internet gleanings, the composition of the first-team’s roster, and Walter Bahr’s recruiting principle that center midfielders are the best players, so recruit and repurpose them. No direct observation has been available.

NCAA-bound Seniors  First-team candidates 
Name Age Pos Name Age Pos
Huckaby 18.1 LCB Lopez 16.0 DCM
Bettenhausen 18.0 LCM Ramirez 16.5 ACM
Budler 18.3 GK
Martino 18.6 GK
Diop 17.9 RCB
Union 2  Discovery youngsters
Name Age Pos Name Age Pos
Sorensen 18.2 LB Darboe 14.4 S
Stafford 17.5 S Zambrano 16.2 S
Jasinski 17.4 RCM Oliver 16.0 RB
Gilman 17.0 RB Mazzola 16.3 S
Abbey 17.0 S/M
Spadafora 16.8 S/M
Jones 17.2 CB
The schedule

These are the known Union 2 preseason fixtures.

Date Day Opponent Location Structure Result/Tap
3/6 Sa West Chester United YSC Academy 30:30:30 3-1
3/14 Su FC Motown Power Complex 30:30:30 2-0
3/21 Su Vereinigung Erzgebirge Power Complex 30:30:30 5-1
3/27 Sa Richmond Kickers Power Complex 45:45 0-4
Apr 3 Sa @ Loudoun United Segra Field cancelled
4/9 Fr @ N Y Red Bulls II away ?45:45? 0-1
4/21 We @ Hartford Athletic TBD TBD TBD
4/25 Su Loudoun United Power Complex TBD 2 p.m. ET
5/1 Su Pittsburgh Riverhounds Pittsburgh TBD TBD
Observations and surmises

Drew Skundrich

  • Veteran Bethlehem Steel watchers may have already known that the former Steel midfielder had left the Sacramento Republic to join Loudoun United, D. C. United’s developmental team in the USL Championship. In the second half of the D. C. – first-team preseason match March 31, these watchers recognized Skundrich’s face as one of the capital gang’s unnamed trialists pressing all over the pitch for Hernan Losada much as he had done for Brendan Burke in Bethlehem.

Anthony Ramirez and Diego Lopez

  • Ramirez may be a live prospect. Coach LeBlanc himself posted the linked video clip on Twitter, and that LeBlanc played him the full 90 against fully professional side Richmond reinforces the positive impression. Using the Bahr principle, he plays the most versatile offensive position.
  • Lopez may be one also, since he also got 90 minutes against Union 2’s most challenging opponent to date. He plays the most versatile defensive position.
  • If Ramirez and Lopez were to play 90 against Hartford and Pittsburgh (were first-teamers not to play those matches), being evaluated as first-team candidates becomes a high probability.

Marcus Zambrano

  • Zambrano appeared once last fall in a postseason friendly. His actual eligibility  to enroll officially in the Academy was only resolved this spring, at the federation level. He has dual citizenship (Ecuador), and his expected graduation year is later than a native speaker of English should expect based on age. (Addendum 4/17/21By appearing in that postseason friendly last fall it is possible that Zambrano became eligible to be a Homegrown International player, should he sign with the Union in the future, since he would have been 15 years old at the time.)

Selmir Miscic, Ben Ofeimu, & Shanyder Borgelin

  • We know that USL League One’s North Carolina FC coach, John Bradford, tweeted his excitement to work with Miscic  after the announcement of the loan. He knows him from past youth national team contact.
  • It is suggestive that Ofeimu did not appear against Richmond Kickers, because fellow professional Miscic also did not appear in a competitively appropriate match prior to announcement of his loan. Like Miscic, Ofeimu seems  passed over for promotion to the first team.
  • We know that Borgelin played the second half of the first team’s March 15 preseason scrimmage against Orlando in Clearwater while he was in transit to his call-up to Haiti’s U23s for Concacaf Olympic Qualifying. But he did not dress for any of Haiti’s three matches according to Concacaf. He got 28 minutes in the first team’s final preseason scrimmage against D. C. At a guess, his continuing lack of production suggests he may be loaned out this summer with hope of a sale.

Dante Huckaby, Jack Jasinski, & Sean Bettenhausen

  • From the limited data available, these three have played every minute of every match the Union 2 players have played. Penn State-bound Bettenhausen has appeared exclusively in the shuttling midfield. Princeton-bound Jasinski was a striker in the first match but has been a shuttler ever since. Louisville-bound Huckaby was the DCM until Ofeimu’s absence shifted him to LCB and Diego Lopez’s emergence replaced him at DCM. It is not iron-clad that they are not candidates for for the first-team, but it seems unlikely since younger players have been signed ahead of them.

Greg Ranjitsingh

  • Public comments from Jim Curtin and Ernst Tanner indicate that Matt Freese will get game minutes with Union 2. Developmentally, keepers number one and two should maximize their game minutes, if numbers three and four are competent to fill emergencies. If Freese is with the farm team and virus protocols separate him from the first-team when Blake is away this summer and next fall, the Union will need Bendik and Ranjitsingh.


  1. Thank you for these posts. I love them. I love following the U2 as I think the Union are doing a great job with them and in Soccer investing in a good youth pipeline is a viable way to produce first teamers of all types.

    Darboe’s age really jumps out from that first list. He really is the real deal.

    Based on my bored Instagram browsing it seems like Ofeimu is linked to the Birmingham Legion?

  2. Andy Muenz says:

    Hopefully when it comes time for Blake to be missing time (where it is known ahead of time rather than due to injury), the team can arrange for Freese to undergo any quarantine necessary to shift from Union 2 ahead of time.

  3. el Pachyderm says:

    Good stuff here. Thank you….
    …… and for argument’s sake, I certainly appreciate the Walter Bahr reference but personally am inclined to amend it a bit.
    In certain settings Union maybe not considered relative to playing style, being a defensive first mentality and thereby aware of 360 degrees in constant checking of the shoulder to be aware of strikers off ball movement — the archetype of the modern defender has exceptional passing range with both feet, uses deception with the eyes to create usable passing lanes, is agile on the ball….and penetrates space -getting vertical thereby bringing much needed chaos to the very organized modern game… it is my argument, the defender is the player most easy to repurpose into a CM.

    • Hmm. Matt Real is a datum that supports your case. So is Dante Huckaby. So is Jack Elliott! I am less inclined to see Matej Oravec that way since his midfield appearances have felt more like the body most available to plug the final hole.
      I like your thinking for DCM. and the shuttling CMs, the 6s and the 8s in other parlance.
      I hesitate to adopt it for the ACMs, the 10s. There is a twinkle toes quality necessary to the ACMs and the scale, the scope of the vision necessary feels different somehow. A central defender or a flank defender would have to recast his willingness to take risks to play as the creator in the attacking third.
      Excellent, instructive insight El P, as always.

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