MLS NEXT Pro Match Report / Philadelphia Union II

Match report: Philadelphia Union II 1-0 Orlando City B

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Philadelphia Union II defeated visiting Orlando City B 1-0 at Subaru Park Monday evening. Two excellent goalkeepers matched each other’s performances save for one mistake. When Paxten Aaronson blasted a shot at Orlando’s Javier Otero in the 51st minute, Otero’s save rebounded straight back to the man from Medford and he slammed it home between Otero’s legs at point blank range for the match’s only goal.

Anticipations

The last time the professional-level developmental teams of the Keystone Sports and Entertainment organization and Orlando City Soccer Club played a match was in 2017. Orlando B also did not play in an organized recognized league last year.

This season in MLS NEXT Pro Orlando City B had not played for since April 22nd, 24 days ago. Its April 27th match, Rochester’s home opener, was postponed. Wet ground made the temporary seating at Rochester’s current home field unsafe for use. Union II will travel to Rochester in four days for a match this coming Saturday, their first on artificial turf this season.

 Yesterday evening’s match occurred two days after both first teams last played, so reinforcements could have been available to each. The Union exploited the opportunity, but given their busy schedule for the rest of the month they limited the numbers of minutes first-team field players could play except for Jesus Bueno who went the full 90. Orlando, instead of augmenting, rotated heavily within their large squad.

First Half

After a “severe weather delay” for vigorous wind and brief but intense rain during warmups, kick-off happened about 7:40 instead of 7:00 PM.

Bajung Darboe made his second consecutive start at attacking mid. This time he was surrounded in the midfield by first-team players exclusively, making it feel like an audition. Within 30 seconds he found Chris Donovan closer to the goal than the penalty spot on the right, but the shot went wide. In the 6th minute the not yet 16-year-old attacking mid delivered an excellent cross into the box, but no one was there to claim the opportunity. In the eighth minute the young man from The Gambia sent Nelson Pierre in behind for a shot with a perfectly weighted through ball in the left portion of the box, but Pierre also shot wide. It took Orlando City B defensive central mids Victor Souza and Wilfredo Rivera about 15 minutes to realize that leaving Darboe free  was highly dangerous. He had been dropping deep from the number ten to collect balls and start play with noticeable impact during the first quarter of an hour. Orlando’s coach agreed about the danger. At halftime Rivera came off for the more physical Brandon Hackenberg.

More impressive in some ways was the defensive cohesion of a midfield composed of three first-teamers and the youngest amateur in the squad. They defended well. One would expect that of Jack McGlynn and Quinn Sullivan. But Jesus Bueno laid down a marker for himself in his first game of the season as a single pivot defensive center mid. And Darboe fit seamlessly with his teammates both before and after the halftime changes until he came off in the 72nd.

The former Minnesota United Academy man repeated the successes he had playing with first-teamers last February during the three weeks of preseason. His challenge now will be to do so consistently, consistently enough that the Sporting Director’s contract-signing hand is forced. So far, Darboe has done well twice in a row.

Plenty of other Union II players did well in the first half. The only things they missed were Orlando’s net and their shooting boots.

Orlando keeper Otero showed why he has started every 2022 match. He kept them in it. The purple lion cubs did not make their first cross into the box until the 20th minute. The first time the Union felt threatened occurred in minute 35 when Brandan Craig had to clean up a burgeoning mess. A minute and a half later another counterattack saw a cross from the right to an open far post, but the closing winger was late.

Among several good chances to score, the Union’s best of the half came in the 44th minute when Quinn Sullivan revealed the tonal frequency of a well-thumped cross bar on an Otero rebound from the initial Sullivan strike.

Union II’s first half defending stayed compact, and while the intensity of the first 15 or 20 minutes diminished some, and Orlando had a handful of forays that might have become dangerous had they not been promptly addressed, there is no doubt which side controlled the half.

Second Half

Because the first team plays this Wednesday evening, Sullivan and McGlynn were replaced at halftime by Aaronson and Boubacar Diallo.

After halftime Union II’s defense felt less compact. As Coach LeBlanc noted afterwards, Orlando began to try to hit long cross-field diagonals and did so with some success. And as the young lions began to substitute, the MLS NEXT Pro experience on their bench began to tell. There were no drop-offs, and sometimes the sub’s pace, technique, and quickness was stronger than that of the starter.

Aaronson’s goal temporarily dampened the lion cubs’ enthusiasm and success, but Orlando did come back into the match. After Darboe went off in the 72nd, Orlando began to enjoy long stretches of possession. Freese became to be threatened. The threats were not frequent but they were intense. twice. The former Episcopal Academy captain made a top class save in the 77th minute on a strong left-footed shot on goal from left winger Moises Tablante. The ball was struck hard to Freese’s immediate right below hip height and above knee level, any goalkeeper’s most vulnerable close-to-the-body spot.. FortunatelyAndre Blake’s backup was set, intuited that the ball was hit too hard for him to shift his feet, and guided his deflection wide of the goal. In the 82nd minute Orlando’s Brandon Hackenberg struck a firm header to Freese’s left that the Union II captain caught.  These may have been Orlando’s only two shots on goal, but their quality demanded that Freese be perfect. He was.

The last ten minutes and then the seven minutes of stoppage time stretched Union II defensively. But unlike earlier matches in which one goal leads have slipped away, this one did not.  The clean sheet was finished. and Union II notched their third consecutive win. They now lie second in the conference above New England on a tie breaker and behind only central division Columbus on points. The tiebreaker means they lead the Northeast division with more or less a third of the season in the books.

Union II travels to Rochester Saturday, May 21st at 6:00 pm  ET. The Union itself plays Portland in Portland the next day at 10:00 ET, so Coach LeBlanc’s game-day roster for Rochester is unlikely to be augmented.

Three Points
  1. When first-team homegrown Paxten Aaronson sat the bench behind Bajung Darboe at attacking mid in the diamond, it was only the third time in the almost seven-year history of Bethlehem Steel FC and Philadelphia Union II that a dressed first-team player had begun from the bench. It is the first time ever that a first-team player has backstopped an academy amateur. The other two times, one first-teamer was backing another who had only limited minutes.
  2. Jose Riasco subbed on for Nelson Pierre in the 62nd minute. During this appearance he was not lost and tentative. He showed some hold-up play, with instinctive ball control of noticeably high quality. He showed he understands at least some of his defensive cues intellectually, although he still has to think about them and remember to transition instantly from offense to defense. He has a long way to go, but as LeBlanc said when discussing his minutes it is a difficult defensive system both to learn and to play. We observers must be patient and remember that he has a new living situation in a new country in a new language with alien food. But Riasco is already a much different from the one PSP saw on his second day of practice.
  3. Orlando City B has a deep talent pool. They left many of those who had made multiple starts on the bench for this match, with only little Wilfredo Rivera and defender Anthony Freeman as first teamers. They will cast some players off as time passes. Other teams would be wise to bring those people in for a look see.
Boxscore

Lineups

Union II (4-4-2 “narrow diamond,” L-R): Matt Freese ©; Anton Sorenson (Jackson Gilman, 90′), Brandan Craig, Nathan Nkanji, Frank Westfield; Jesus Bueno; Jack McGlynn (Boubacar Diallo, HT), Quinn Sullivan (Paxten Aaronson, HT); Bajung Darboe (Juan Perdomo, 72′); Nelson Pierre ( Jose Riasco 62′), Chris Donovan. Unused substitutes: Damian Alguera;  Maike Villero, Jack Jasinski, Ian Abbey, Stefan Stojanovic,. Distribution: 1st – 6, U II Pros – 7, Ac/Am – 7. Injury rehab: Anthony Ramirez, Gino Portella.

Orlando B (3-4-2-1, L-R): Javier Otero; Liam Guske, David Boccuzzo, Andrew Forth; Ignacio Galvan (Brian Lopez, 68′), Wilfredo Rivera (Brandon Hackenberg, HT), Victor Souza (Owen Van Marter, 79′), Alex Freeman; Neicer Acosta (Nick Taylor, 56′), Moises Tablante; Ian Silva. Unused Substitutes: Isaac Delgado;  Matias Cruz, Quembol Guadalupe, Diego Pareja, Jack Lynn. Distribution (unconfirmed) 1st – 3, OCB Pros – 10, Ac/Am – 7,….. Suspended: Erik Gunera-Calix.

Goals

Union II         51st minute      Brenden Aaronson

Cards

Orlando B      28th minute     Yellow     Liam Guske (foul)

Orlando B      31st minute     Yellow     Wilfredo Rivera (foul)

Union II          43rd minute   Yellow     Anton Sorenson (delay)

Union II         68th minute   Yellow      Bajung Darboe (foul)

Orlando B       70th minute   Yellow     Brian Lopez (foul)

Orlando B      71st minute     Yellow     Moises Tablante (foul)

Orlando B      74th minute    Yellow      Victor Souza (foul)

Whistle    Ref: JC Griggs     AR1: Robert Cordrey     AR2: Nicholas Seymour     4th: Nickrod Fateh

Stats

U II

 

O B

U II

 

O B

42.9

Possession %

57.1

3

Offsides

2

24

Shots

9

41

Duels won

44

8

Shots on goal

2

14

Tackles won

11

5

Blocked shots

2

2

Saves

7

343

Total passes

446

16

Clearances

13

74.3

Passing accuracy %

81.6

16

Fouls

11

6

Corners

4

2

Yellow cards

5

5

Crosses

19

0

Red cards

0

5 Comments

  1. Andy Muenz says:

    The first half really showed the Union game plan. Although they did not dominate possession, they dominated territorially. The vast majority of play took place in their attacking half regardless of which team had possession and much of it was in the final third of the field.
    .
    During the first half I was sitting near the Orlando bench and heard their coach constantly shouting orders from his coach’s box. However, I couldn’t understand a word he said, it sounded like it was in French, although when I asked one of the assistant coaches, he said it was English.

    • I agree, the first half looked really good and was a great view of U2 playing exactly how U1 wants to play.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      Andy’s territorial point is excellent.
      .
      Coach Perelman is Argentine by citizenship according to both Wikipedia and transfermarkt.

  2. Joe McQuillan says:

    Excellent and vibrant recap of an enjoyable and competitive game.

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