MLS NEXT Pro Match Report / Philadelphia Union II

Match report: Philadelphia Union II 0–1 New England Revolution II

Photo: Ben Ross

The greater pace, experience, and technical skill of New England Revolution II midfielder Meny Silva allowed him to get behind Union II’s 16 1/2-year-old right back Frank Westfield in the 34th minute, take a well struck through ball from Ryan Lima, and strike past Joe Bendik to win the match for the hosts, 1-0 on Friday evening.

New England goalkeeper Jacob Jackson had six of his nine saves in the second half to preserve the win for les petites Bostonnais.  New England’s ability to maintain possession in tight spaces in the middle and defensive thirds with their noticeable edge in pace and technical skill is responsible for them supporting their keeper to the win.

Anticipations

The Sons of Ben’s skeletal namesake would have had divided loyalties in this match were he still alive, since he arrived in Philly from Boston 299 years ago this coming October 6.

The match was the MLS NEXT Pro Game of the Week. An “enhanced” production provides two announcers not one. It also provides cameras that focus closer to the action, making player identification much easier. And there are multiple replays of key plays. Unfortunately, it has advertising in all the usual breaks in play. If the camerawork results from automated programming, the program’s quality is much greater than that of Spiideo’s basic level product.

Revolution II is an older side like Rochester, “physically more mature,” to quote Union II head coach Marlon LeBlanc. But it is not designed to play a low black and counter attack from it the way the upper New York State side is. New England contests and wins midfield battles of possession. It has pace and superior technical skill, more so than just sheer size. They signed college graduates to flesh out their second team by complementing their Brazilian imports.

Few actual academy players seem to have appeared for them so far this season. Only one such saw action in this match, a dangerous 17-year-old flank midfield substitute named Jack Panayotou who played the last 20 or so minutes. A second Academy player was on the bench as a reserve keeper.

Carlos Paternina was available to Union II as his injury in Rochester was a stomach bug. He was seen practicing without restriction last Tuesday. Juan Perdomo did not practice fully that Tuesday for reasons that were not fully determined at that time.  He was listed on the bench, but for the first time this season he did not make an appearance when dressed.

A curiosity is that the referee for this MLS NEXT Pro match, Joshua Encarnacion, has exactly the same name as the 4th official assigned for the MLS match Saturday night in Foxborough.

First Half

Philadelphia Union II totaled seven shots in the first half with three on target, while New England had only three, with one on target. But the one was the match winner.

Revolution II had a 60:40 possession advantage but much of it was in their own defensive half. They had a pace advantage in their left attacking channel. Union II’s offensive chances in the first half were not of high quality. Both teams pressed their opponents in the midfield, and for a neutral observer the match went pleasantly back and forth from offensive foray to offensive foray without many serious threats to the goals save for the goal.

Early next week Westfield will have an opportunity in the film room to learn the subtle nuances of attacking as a right back while covering a player who can separate from him on pace and technical skill. He has a patient but demanding teacher and he is Philly tough, so we expect the lessons will be assimilated successfully.

Second Half

At the outset of the second half, New England applied a high press, taking Union II by surprise. The first five minutes saw the baby Revs with a nearly 90% possession advantage according to both the match announcers and the post-game possession graphic.

Then LeBlanc’s usual second-half offensive outburst occurred, but it was stymied by Jackson’s goal-keeping. Union II striker Stefan Stojanovic had the first good chance in the 49th minute on a chipped breakaway that the New England’s keeper deflected. Thenceforth forward Chris Donovan was central to the flurry of Philadelphia chances.  Bajung Darboe was also involved with one good chance to score and more passes to set up his attacking teammates.

Once the flurry was spent and both sides began to substitute, the frequency of chances diminished each way, except for New England’s Panayotou whose pace caused LeBlanc to replace Westfield with Jackson Gilman.

When Nelson Pierre came on with 15 minutes to play, Union II’s shape clearly changed. Usually there were three in the back with Nathan Nkanji as the center and Sorenson and Gilman on the outsides. That back line has good pace. Brandan Craig stepped into a defensive center midfield role and Pierre joined Riasco and Donovan up top. Both Craig and Donovan slid outside to cover  the attacking runs of the outside backs when they occurred. The emergency formation has potential.

The Union’s best late chance came from Ian Abbey on the left flank who collected and cut in to set up his right foot for a low laser that must have stung Jackson’s hands through his gloves in the 86th minute, but the New England man held on cleanly. Donovan put a header on net in the third minute of stoppage time. And then the final whistle sounded.

The Union lie second in the Northeast Division and third in the Eastern Conference, six points behind New England and Columbus and one ahead of NYC FC, pending their match Sunday at Miami. In fourteen days Union II travel to York, Ontario, Canada to play Toronto II on June 11th, Saturday, at 8:00 p.m.

When they return to Subaru Park on Juneteenth against Chicago at 2:00 p.m. the stadium’s new turf will have been laid and the longest road-game sequence of the season will be over.

Four points
  1. Union II started only five players who are not actual teenagers, and only one of their five subs added to that number. Revolution II started only two teenagers, although three of their four subs were. Probably LeBlanc will use the strong but losing performance by his  younger side as marker for when Revs II come south to Chester in late August. And it will be interesting to compare this late-May match to the mid-September season finale back in Foxborough when we will find out which side has grown and progressed more over the rest of the season.
  2. On paper New England’s attacking three, Silva, Dias, and Lima should have outclassed Union II’s back four, Westfield, Nkanji, Craig and Anton Sorenson.  The Union II backs played well with only the one punished breakdown. It will be interesting to find whether coach LeBlanc’s statistical-and-film-aided analysis concurs.
  3. Boubacar Diallo seems to be stepping up his defensive game a bit. He is reaching decision time, whether his path forward will lie with the professionals or whether he needs to sort out his ability to be recruited by NCAA schools.
  4. Academy goalkeeper Andrew Rick dressed for his first Union II match of 2022. If Damian Alguera moves on after graduating from YSC Academy, Rick is his obvious replacement.
Box score

Lineups

Union II (4-1-2-1-2 “narrow diamond” , L-R): Joe Bendik; Anton Sorenson, Brandan Craig, Nathan Nkanji, Frank Westfield (Jackson Gilman, 77′); Cole Turner; Boubacar Diallo (Ian Abbey, 69′), Jack Jasinski (Nelson Pierre, 77′); Bajung Darboe (Carlos Paternina, 62′); Stefan Stojanovic (Jose Riasco, 69′), Chris Donovan. Unused substitutes; Andrew Rick; Maike Villero,  Juan Perdomo, Anthony Ramirez. Distribution: 1st – 4; 2nd – 8; Ac/Am – 8. Injury Rehab: Gino Portella.

Revs II (4-1-4-1, L-R): Jacob Jackson; Jose Italo, Pierre Cavet, Michael DeShields, Colby Quinones;  Jake Rozhnasky; Meny Silva (Hikaru Fujiwara, 57′), Noel Buck ( Trevor Zwetsloot, 68′), Michel Silva, Ryan Lima ( Jack Panayotou, 57′); Marcos Dias (Esmir Bajraktarevic, 87′).  Unused substitutes: Max Weinstein, Marzug Puckerin; Sean O’Hearn. Distribution: 1st — 2, 2nd — 14, Ac/Am — 2.

Goals

Rev II      34th minute     Meny Silva (Ryan Lima)

Cards

Union II      25th minute      Nathan Nkanji (foul)

Rev II           26th minute      Noah Buck (foul)

Union II      32nd minute     Frank Westfield (foul)

Union II      49th minute      Boubacar Diallo (foul)

Rev II         90+1 minute     Jose Italo (time wasting)

Whistle: Ref: Joshua Encarnacion, AR1: Ian Mangione, AR2: Alexandru Focea, 4TH: Kenneth Rojas.

Stats

U II

  Rev II U II  

Rev II

37.5

Possession % 62.5 1 Offsides

2

15

Shots 12 58 Duels won 55

9

Shots on goal 2 16 Tackles won

9

2

Blocked shots 1 1 Saves

9

330

Total passes

563

9

Clearances

11

75.8

Passing accuracy % 84.2 23

Fouls

12

5

Corners 4 3 Yellow cards 2
15 Crosses 14 0 Red cards

0

3 Comments

  1. I thought the team play really well at certain points and in some cases looked a lot like the first team. Lots of good pressing and turnovers forced. They shoulda gotten a goal in that during that 10 minute flurry in the second half though.

    • Tim Jones says:

      That’s why keeper Jackson was New England’s man of the match for me, even though Silva scored the game winner.

  2. Gruncle Bob says:

    Nice write up, thanks.

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