What happened to the Union II’s Colombian tournament?

Feature photo courtesy Marlon LeBlanc’s Twitter account

Without a league of their own this year, Philadelphia Union II have traveled far in search of meaningful competition.

But their recent travel to Cartagena, Colombia — where Union II were participating in the Torneo Las Americas Elite tournament — was cut short.

Midday last Wednesday, Brotherly Game tweeted that there had been a fire at the hotel where the Union II were staying the previous night, reporting that all persons were safe but that future plans were unknown.

Later that evening the organization posted the following official statement on Twitter.

The next day Union II head coach Marlon LeBlanc tweeted that all were healthy, together, and safe and in the process of coming home. The club posted a further update, also on Thursday.

Union II were the only team on either side of the brackets to begin the competition with two wins and six points, but they did not complete their assigned schedule. For the games they did play, the Union organization provided concise but invaluable data about the matches that were played, the most concentrated and detailed Union II information it has made available all year.

PSP provides three things below. We summarize what we learned about the tournament in general, concentrate cogent Union II detail into a single chart, and finish with points of observation and interpretation.

Torneo las Americas

On its own Facebook page the tournament proclaims itself the most important youth tournament in Colombia. Its web information says 2021 is the event’s 19th edition. The 18th was in Cali in 2019. Its self-provided history records competitions at the U15, U17, and U19 levels. The U19 age group has been contested since 2013. Previous international participants in all groups have at times included Colombia’s own youth national sides, Ecuador’s, and Club Atlas from Mexico as well as the occasional European representative.

The record suggests the tournament had been annual until 2020, when it is safe to assume COVID-19 interrupted the sequence.

For 2021 the tournament’s original U19 structure had ten teams divided into two groups for round robin play, with the top two in each group advancing to the semifinals. The winners  play for the championship.

Each team was to have gotten a minimum of four games. Each team had one every morning — Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The semifinalists had an off day on Friday, and then played on Saturday. The final was to have occurred on Sunday. It was an intense, testing sequence.

This year it was hosted in Cartagena, which is fully tropical (at latitude 10.4 degrees north and only a few feet above sea level). Its heat is real. Each day’s second games faced meaningful heat in the second half. Substitution rules were liberal.

These were the original 2021 U19 teams.

Union II’s group Opposite group
Academia Alemana Cyclones de Cali
Club Deportivo Aston Villa Llaneros FC
Deportivo Cali Udinese
Philadelphia Union II Barranquilla FC
Real Cartagena Cortulua
Union II at Torneo las Americas

Union II’s tournament roster.

Goalkeepers: Damian Alguera, Owen Moore, Ian Turnbull.

Defenders: Brandan Craig, Samuel Fenton, Jackson Gilman, Sam Jones, Robert Myrick, Kleberson Pereira, Anton Sorenson, Ritter Sundby, Francis Westfield.

Midfielders: Ian Abbey, Jack Jasinski, Jordan Lawrence, Diego Lopez, Anthony Ramirez.

Forwards: Paul Killen, Gael Medrano, Nelson Pierre, Marcos Zambrano.

Careful observers will notice that Shanyder Borgelin and Gino Portella did not go. They are too old. Also, youngsters Bajung Darboe and Andrew Rick stayed home for important MLS NEXT U17 matches.

The new Union Developmental Squad, coached by former Union man Fred da Silva, supplied the depth necessary for coach LeBlanc’s side to survive the schedule’s intensity.

Union II player details for Torneo las Americas
Day Opponent WLD Goals (Assists) Lineup: (L-R)(Shape)
Mo 10/18 Academia






(3 pts)

Zambrano20’ (Pierre)

Zambrano45’ (Jasinski)

Gilman 70’


Starters: (4-1-2-1-2 “narrow diamond”) GK: Damian Alguera;

D: Anton Sorenson, Jackson Gilman, Brandan Craig, Francis Westfield;

M: Sam Jones, Ian Abbey, Jack Jasinski, Anthony Ramirez;

F: Nelson Pierre, Marcos Zambrano.

Substitutes used: Samuel Fenton (D), Robert Myrick (D), Kleberson Pereira (D), Jordan Lawrence (M), Diego Lopez (M), Paul Killen (S), Gael Medrano (S).

Substitutes not used: Owen Moore (GK), Ian Turnbull (GK), Ritter Sundby (D),

Tu 10/19 Deportivo






(3 pts)

Jones 2’


Ramirez 36’


Starters (4-2-2-2 “empty bucket”): GK: Damian Alguera;

D: Anton Sorenson, Jackson Gilman, Brandan Craig, Kleberson Pereira;

M: Sam Jones, Diego Lopez, Ian Abbey, Anthony Ramirez.

S: Gael Medrano, Marcos Zambrano

Substitutes used: Samuel Fenton (D), Jack Jasinski (M), Paul Killen (S), Robert Myrick (D), Francis Westfield (D/M).

Subsitutes not used: Owen Moore (GK), Ian Turnbull (GK), Ritter Sundby (D), Nelson Pierre (S), Jordan Lawrence (M).

We 10/20 Deportivo









[semis] Did not qualify


[final] Did not qualify
Observations and Opinions
  1. Damion Alguera has joined the academy and Union II as a goalkeeper. He had previously been with the San Jose Earthquakes and Sporting Kansas City youth development programs. In addition to the tournament matches he started the friendly against Chicago at Chicago October 10. Here are some of the saves he made against Deportivo Cali.
  2. Coach LeBlanc continues to employ the development technique of playing individuals in positions adjacent to their primary ones, as he did last year with academy graduate Dante Huckaby (now at Louisville). Jackson Gilman, originally a right-footed outside back, now appears consistently at left center back. Sam Jones, a right-footed center back, is now a defensive central midfielder — either by himself or in tandem with Diego Lopez.
  3. Both goals against Deportivo Cali are worth watching. Jones receives the ball with his back to the goal and loops a first-touch lob back over his head into the net. Ramirez rifles a long-distance artillery shell from wide right outside the box.
  4. LeBlanc used both the 4-1-2-1-2 “narrow diamond” and the 4-2-2-2 “empty bucket,” perhaps depending on the estimated strength of the opponent. The empty bucket provides two DCM’s protecting the backline and is perhaps the stronger formation defensively.
  5. Tournament organizers put the foreigners in the host’s group and gave them only one earlier morning tap-off time that avoided second half heat..
  6. The tournament history provided by the event’s website says that Deportivo Cali has frequently been champion or runner up in the various categories, and their home city was the 2019 host venue. If one compares the video of the winning goals to the win-preserving saves, winning against the team from Cali may be a feather in Union II’s cap.
  7. Brandan Craig is a 2021 first team homegrown player. Anton Sorenson is widely reported to be one for 2022. The 9/30/21 MLSPA Salary Guide published Friday lists him as a Union player.
  8. Here is a pre-game “Team Photo” of the starters against Deportivo Cali match as posted on Torneo las Americas’ Facebook page. (ID’s are provisional, unofficial, and unconfirmed by any official source.)
Photo credit Torneo las Americas Facebook page URL

(L-R) Front Row: Ramirez, Pereira, Sorenson, Abbey, Gilman, Back Row: Zambrano, Medrano, Lopez, Jones, Craig, Alguera.  Photo credit Torneo Las Americas Facebook.




  1. Thanks for the update, Tim. I had been looking to get a score on Wednesday’s game that day but then got distracted by the Union’s game that night and never went back to check the Union II page.
    Any idea why they left rather than just trying to find a different hotel?

    • Yes, one very practical one. In the tweet from which I drew the photo of the kids on the Jet Blue 320 plane ready to come home, Coach LeBlanc commented to the effect that they were coming home with much less stuff than they had had when they left.
      My unconfirmed interpretation of coach’s comment is that — quite properly — they abandoned considerable personal property and probably team property as well when they evacuated due to the fire. That one individual suffered minor smoke inhalation suggests that the fire may have been more than just embryonic. So evacuation would have been hasty and confused.
      I used to work in a boarding school and we had regular evening fire drills. Once a year we had one in the middle of the night when everyone was waked from a deep sleep. They happened when the Fire Marshall’s favorite baseball team was playing on the west coast and had just completed a game. Those deep sleep drills were much less efficient and the evacuations were much more confused and chaotic.
      Coach and his staff did well by their boys to get them all out in one piece in a situation that they may have never drilled in advance. And Credit to the boys for realizing the seriousness and cooperating.
      As one presumed parent commented on twitter the property can be replaced and the lives don’t have to be.


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