MLS NEXT Pro Match Report

Match report: Philadelphia Union II 3(4)-3(5) Chicago Fire FC II

Photo: Ben Ross

Philadellphia Union II travelled to Chicago to play Chicago Fire FC II Sunday evening and produced an entertaining but disappointing result, one full of teaching moments.

After a noteworthy second half comeback, for the second time this season Union II gave up a stoppage time equalizer. This time they lost on penalties 5-4 (unlike a similar match in Miami a few weeks ago). Chicago goalkeeper Miha Miskovic saved Jackson Gilman’s shootout spot kick, after having made six total saves in the match – roughly half of which were of the game-saving variety.

The spot kick save was the difference.

Chris Donovan had a breakout offensive game for Union II, bagging two of the three goals in the second-half comeback. The boys in light blue and yellow went from two goals down at the half to one goal ahead, before a second consecutive corner kick in stoppage time saw Fire first-team reserve striker Chinoso Offor knot the score at three. Offor had a brace.

The first half

The Union started the match on the front foot, their pressing defense took Chicago aback – it also took the referee aback. Early on, every time the Union challenged a Chicago player for the ball and the home player fell down, she called a foul against the Union. The match commentator noted three separate yellow cards in the first six minutes of the match as did the eyes of this writer, even though the MLS NEXT Pro’s statistics record only one. The referee’s willingness to allow professional  soccer to be played in the manner it is played around the world improved noticeably as the game went on – the referee is not yet a candidate for promotion to first-division soccer at this time.

The match turned in the 17th minute when U II right center back Nathan Nkankji committed a foul in the penalty box. The ensuing penalty kick was scored by Chicago first-teamer Victor Bezerra. Union II’s prospects dimmed further in the 35th when goalkeeper Brooks Thompson misjudged his rush towards Offor – who had received an excellent long service from left back Charlie Ostrem. Thompson was beaten at the near post to double Union II’s deficit.

The second half

Head coach Marlon LeBlanc needs to preserve and reproduce whatever he said and did at halftime, because Union II rocked their opponents back on their heels from the second half opening whistle. Jack Jasinski drew a foul from Kendall Burks in the penalty area in the 50th minute that Cole Turner converted from the spot to cut the deficit in half. Bezerra’s comments on the call earned a yellow card for dissent. Four minutes later his yellow card-worthy foul earned him dismissal from the pitch. Two minutes after the red card, in the 57th minute, Boubacar Diallo found Donovan’s head in the box to open the Conestoga HS and Drexel man’s professional score sheet with the match equalizer.

After switching from left midfield to right back when Frank Westfield went off for Ian Abbey at halftime, in the 70th minute Jack Jasinski earned a straight red card restoring the match to equality at 10 v 10. But in the 72nd minute Nkanji atoned for conceding Chicago’s penalty goal by finding Donovan from distance on a lovely through ball for the go-ahead brace.

In not quite half an hour,  an 0-2 deficit had become a 3-2 lead.

Unsurprisingly, the 10 v 10 match became more open and Union II’s lack of depth in the defensive portion of its roster, together with its future opportunities for “engine building,” became evident. With Westfield off and Jasinski gone, LeBlanc had only three trained defenders on the pitch – so he improvised a fourth. Striker Stefan Stojanovic dropped back two lines initially, and fellow sub Bajung Darboe also patrolled at right back. When Nkanji’s engine died and Maike Villero made his Union II debut in the 80th, at left back with Gilman switching into the center, Union II had only Gilman and Craig left as true defenders. Furthermore Jose Riasco replaced Diallo at that time, moving a gassed Donovan back into the midfield.

By stoppage time the dominating energy with which Union II had begun the second half was gone. Offor pounced on the 90+2 corner kick that dropped uncleared, forced a shootout, and Fire II converted all five PKs.

Coach LeBlanc will be proud of his boys for fighting back into the match in the second half. He will probably comment at some future time about the surfeit of teaching moments the match provided him.

Union II now sit seventh in the eastern conference and fourth in the northeast division. They next play at 4:00 pm Saturday, April 30th at home to NYCFC II, who are fourth in the conference and second in the division. That is the day before the Union themselves end Nashville’s season-long road trip by inaugurating their brand new stadium, so Union II are unlikely to have extra reinforcements from the first team.

Three points
  1. Chris Donovan broke the Union II striker scoring drought emphatically with his brace. Previous to the Chicago match no Union II striker had scored except in penalty shootouts.
  2. Three Union II players debuted for the club. Academy man Bajung Darboe came on for for Frank Westfield in the 58th minute. U II professionals Maike Villero and Jose Riasco came on in the 80th minute for Nathan Nkanji and Boubacar Diallo. Darboe fit in well at midfield on the right flank. Villero was credible as a midfielder pressed into emergency service as an outside back. Riasco got a taste of what soccer in North America means athletically. The urgency with which he recovered into the defense to help out at the end is a good sign, but he clearly needs time to adjust to a new country, a new language, and a new style of futbol. And three new Academy boys travelled away and dressed for the first time: goalkeeper Andrew Rick, center back Daniel Krueger, and midfielder Logan Oliver.
  3.  Playing at home the day after a first team match intensifies home field advantage. MLS NEXT Pro provides game minutes  to home first team reserves because it plays on Sundays after first team Saturday matches. Away teams normally do not receive such reinforcements. Perhaps away wins need to count for more in the standings, the first tie-breaker, perhaps.


Union II: 4-4-2 “empty bucket” (L-R): Brooks Thompson; Jackson Gilman, Brandan Craig, Nathan Nkanji (Jose Riasco, 80′), Frank Westfield (Bajung Darboe, 58′); Cole Turner (c), Jack Jasinski; Boubacar Diallo (Maike Villero, 80′), Juan Perdomo (Ian Abbey, HT); Chris Donovan, Carlos Paternina (Stefan Stojanovic, 58′). Unused Substitutes: Owen Moore, Andrew Rick; Daniel Krueger, Logan Oliver Distribution: 1st –2; U II – 8; Ac/Am –10. Called Up to US U20s: Anton Sorenson

Chicago II: 4-2-3-1 (L-R): Miha Miskovic; Charlie Ostrem (c), Ryan Quintos, Kendall Burks, Diego Alvarado; Trip Fleming, Allan Rodriguez (Alex Monis, 60′);  Missa Rodríguez (Josh Penn, 76′), Matteo Kidd, Victor Bezerra; Chinoso Offor. Unused Substitutes: Adrian Giron ; Train Baumgartner, Carlo Ritaccio, Omari Glasgow, Michael Flores,  Luka Bezerra, Noeh Hernandez. Distribution: 1st – 5; Chi2 II– 7; Ac/Am–8. Called up to US U20s/19s: Javier Casas, Jr., Sergio Oregel, Jr., Justin Reynolds, and Chris Brady.


17th minute     Chicago      Victor Bezerra (pk, conceded by Nathan Nkanji)

35th minute    Chicago      Chinoso Offor (Charlie Ostrem)

52nd minute    Union II    Cole Turner (PK)

57th minute     Union II    Chris Donovan (Boubacar Diallo)

72nd minute    Union II    Chris Donovan (Nathan Nkanji)

90+2 minute    Chicago     Chinoso Offor (Kendall Burks)

Penalty kick shootout

Miha Miskovic vs

Union II

Brooks Thompson vs


Brandan Craig


Chinoso Offor


Jackson Gilman


Alex Monis


Stefan Stejanovic


Josh Penn


Chris Donovan


Matteo Kidd


Cole Turner


Ryan Quintos




2nd minute     Union II     Yellow    Juan Perdomo (foul)

5th minute      Chicago      Yellow    Missa Rodriguez (foul)

14th minute    Union II     Yellow    Marlon LeBlanc (dissent)

46th minute    Union II     Yellow    Boubacar Diallo (foul)

52nd minute    Chicago     Yellow    Victor Bezerra (delay)

55th minute     Chicago     Red        Victor Bezerra (foul) (2nd yellow)

70th minute    Union II    Red        Jack Jasinski (foul)



  Chi II U II   Chi II

Possession %

62.4 2




16 60

Duels won


Shots on goal

7 13

Tackles won


Blocked shots

5 4



Total passes

434 18



Passing accuracy %

76 16




7 3

Yellow cards

16 Crosses 14 1 Red cards



REF: Laura Rodriguez   AR1: Eric del Rosario   AR2: Kaitlyn Trowbridge
4TH: Shay Yinka-Kehinde

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