MLS NEXT Pro Match Report

Match Report: Philadelphia Union II 2 – 1 Inter Miami CF II

Photo courtesy Philadelphia Union II Communications

In a second match played in Ft. Lauderdale, but one very different from its predecessor a month previously, Philadelphia Union II defeated Inter Miami CF II 2-1 on a brace from striker Nelson Pierre.

Pierre opened his account in the first minute of first half stoppage time from about 15 yards out with a well struck curler into the far post from the left corner of the box on an assist from Stefan Stojanovic. Then he added the match winner in the 50th minute before being subbed off in the 62nd.

It is the 2022 Union II’s first road win of the season.

Miami played the match with zero first-teamers coming down, while Union II used only its regular trio – defensive midfielder Cole Turner who captained the side, center back Brandan Craig, and left back Anton Sorenson, who did a much better job controlling Miami’s right winger Romeo Beckham than a month ago when Beckham had three assists.

  1. When asked Wednesday for a key to the match, Philadelphia Union II head coach Marlon LeBlanc focused on winning individual matchups, particularly on the ground.
  2. Will Union II’s central channel defenders be able to contain former Union II striker Shanyder Borgelin? (See below for the answer.)
First Half

The Union started well, generating a shot within 90 seconds. At ten minutes, keeper Brooks Thompson failed to collect a cross and palmed it high rather than wide. The ball fell to Miami midfielder Kai Thomas, who was unmarked a yard or two beyond the penalty spot. With Thompson sprawled on the ground from his effort, the net was wide open and Miami’s academy amateur hit the undefended mesh with calm precision.

Union II’s usual defensive pressure seemed absent. They were trying to counterpress, but were a count slow arriving. Bajung Darboe started at attacking mid, Boubacar Diallo was at left mid, Jack Jasinski was at right mid, and Turner was his usual single defensive mid at the bottom of the triangle.

Rather than winning the ball in the midfield third or the attacking half, Union II was winning it in their own box or just outside it- but they were doing that fairly consistently. When they did, they developed many opportunities through the outside right channel. They had 14 crosses at halftime, and Miami had many more clearances and duels won, reflecting that Union II was the more threatening side even though Miami possessed the ball roughly 60% of the time.

After the first half an hour, the pace of the game was noticeably slow, even for a reserve league match.

Thanks to Pierre the sides went to the locker room even.

Second Half

Spiideo had technical problems with its livestream from the end of the second half until the 68th minute. Those problems truncate our understanding of the second half.

When the stream resumed, Miami was exerting tremendous attacking pressure against a scrambling Union II defense. Brooks Thompson redeemed his early error with game-savers,in the 57th and 69th minutes.

But Union II’s defense seemed badly disorganized several times. In the absence of video we can only guess why. Fortunately, the junior Herons failed to capitalize, and by the last ten minutes of the game the heart had drained out of them.

Coach LeBlanc had apparently subbed on two new midfielders in the 62nd minute, Ian Abbey and Juan Perdomo for Jack Jasinski and Boubacar Diallo. He then traded Pierre for Chris Donovan then. Perhaps LeBlanc’s changes unsettled things for the moment, as they were simultaneous with Miami replacing winger Miles Perkovich with the more experienced and dangerous forward Shaan Hundal.

Once video was re-acquired, it was clear that the new, older middies were faster on the press. They more decisively shut down Miami midfield build-ups. Jackson Gilman had replaced Frank Westfield at right back 12 minutes into the second half, probably to protect him against his 44th minute yellow card, and Gilman’s experience and physicality  proved useful.

As of Sunday morning, Union II lie third in the eastern conference, tied for first on points but third on points per game since their twelve come from six, not five like New England and Columbus. They are second in the northeast division behind New England. Several matches remain to be played Sunday.

Union II next play the following Monday, May 16 at 7:00 PM at Subaru Park against Orlando City B.

Three Points
  1. LeBlanc used a defensive tactic not frequently seen in professional soccer, but it worked. Nathan Nkanji marked Shanyder Borgelin man-for-man all over the defensive third.  For the first time Nkanji, did not cramp up towards the end of 90 minutes, and Borgelin did not score. The tactic also allowed Brandon Craig to distribute the ball freely without interference out of the back line. Once keeper Thompson becomes mistake-free and reliably consistent in his heroics, the defense as a whole will improve. Sorenson’s control of Beckham was another noteworthy defensive achievement.
  2. The headlines have gone to Nelson Pierre for his  first professional goals; the equalizer and the winner. But of equal importance is 15.5-year-old Bajung Darboe’s first start. He played attacking mid at the top of the diamond. At the most basic level, he lasted 81 minutes until he cramped and had to leave. He was integral to the first half’s successes attacking down the right channel. His development is something to which all Union fans need to pay attention.
  3. As noted in the boxscore below, courtesy of coach LeBlanc ,PSP knows that last season’s left center back Gino Portella remains with side. He in post-operative injury rehabilitation of an unspecified nature. Bad luck has thinned the Union II’s defensive line, not bad planning.  Also courtesy of coach, we know that Anthony Ramirez has rejoined training but is not yet cleared for contact. He suffered something to do with a hip while with El Salvador during January World Cup qualifying call-ins and has been recovering health and fitness ever since.


Union II (4-4-2-“narrow diamond”, L-R): Brooks Thompson; Anton Sorenson, Brandan Craig, Nathan Nkanji, Frank Westfield (Jackson Gilman, 57′); Cole Turner ©; Boubacar Diallo (Juan Perdomo, 62′), Jack Jasinski (Ian Abbey, 62′); Bajung Darboe (Carlos Paternina, 81′); Stefan Stojanovic, Nelson Pierre (Chris Donovan, 62′). Unused substitutes: Damian Alguera;  Maike Villero,  Jose Riasco. Distribution: 1st – 3; U II Pro – 9; Ac/Am – 7. Longer-term rehabilitation: Anthony Ramirez, Gino Portella.

Miami II (4-3-3, L-R): Andre Zuluaga; Tyler Bagley (Logan Batiste, 66′), Ethan Hardin (Dairon Reyes, 77′), Abel Caputo, Harvey Neville;  Kobi Thomas (Braxton Taghavi-Najib, 77′), Lawson Sunderland, Benja Cremaschi; Myles Perkovich (Shaan Hundal, 64′), Shanyder Borgelin, Romeo Beckham.Unused Substitutes: Brett Kaminski; Bryan Destin, Mikail Keise, Drew Hardin, David Ruiz. Distribution (unconfirmed): 1st – 0; Miami II – 8; Ac/Am – 12.


 Miami II     10th minute    Kai Thomas (unassisted)

Union II      45 +1 minute   Nelson Pierre (Stefan Stojanovic)

Union II      50th minute     Nelson Pierre


Union II      44th minute      Frank Westfield (foul)

Miami II      59th minute      Harvey Neville (foul)

Union II      74th minute       Ian Abbey (foul)

Union II      89th minute       Carlos Paternina (time wasting)

Whistle:   Ref: Alejo Calume   AR1: Diego Lucio   AR2: Corey Wilt   4TH: John Ocampo









Possession %









Duels won



Shots on goal



Tackles won



Blocked shots






Total passes






Passing accuracy %









Yellow cards






Red cards


One Comment

  1. Laurie Thomas says:

    Hi – nice article…… Just fyi
    Kai Thomas plays for FC Cincinatti MLSNextPro2 – He is a center back.

    His brother, Kobi Thomas #56, plays for InterMiami MLS NextPro2, and is the one who scored against the Philly Union in the 10th Minute.

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