MLS NEXT Pro Match Report / Philadelphia Union II

Match report: Toronto FC II 1-0 Philadelphia Union II

Photo: Ben Ross

A deflected goal in stoppage time gave Toronto FC II a 1-0 win over visiting Union II at York Lions park in North York, Ontario early Saturday night.

Union goalkeeper Matt Freese made the initial deflection at full stretch on a ball he had no business reaching, but Cole Turner could only deflect Nakaye Greenidge-Duncan’s well-taken rebound strike. The play had began with Nelson Pierre not contesting a long direct service from the Toronto back line.

It is remarkable that Union II kept a clean sheet against the baby Reds into stoppage time while playing two defensive center midfielders at center back. Cole Turner was on the right and Jack Jasinski was on the left. Neither Brandan Craig, Nathan Nkanji, nor Jackson Gilman made the trip to Canada.


Departure for York, Ontario, Canada happened after YSC Academy’s Friday morning graduation in Wayne, PA, so new graduates made the plane. The four first-team homegrowns called up to the USMNT U20s to compete in Concacaf qualifying in Honduras did not travell to Canada, and the match occurred during the first-team’s international break.

In his press conference earlier in the week, Union II head coach Marlon LeBlanc said there were rules governing first-teamers during the break. He did not detail them, nor did he identify who proclaims them. Perhaps – repeat, perhaps — first teamers who have no on-pitch 2022 regular-season game minutes may be allowed to play in reserve team games during international breaks?

Matt Freese, Jesus Bueno, and Cole Turner have gotten none of their 2022 game minutes with the first team. Perhaps that is why they were eligible to play, as all three did.

Union II’s lineup Saturday night was unusual. And its supporting bench was short, only four field players and a goalkeeper .

In ten games, Toronto II’s defense had allowed 25 goals while their offense has scored 19. In nine matches Union II’s defense had allowed 13 tallies, and their offense has scored, 13.

Toronto deployed a 3-4-3 against Rochester that held the former Rhinos to a 1-1 draw that the New Yorkers won in the shootout. Toronto has not won on the road but has now won four out of six at home. Unofficially, only two players had previously played with them this season while loaned down from the first team, but three were being sent down for this match.

First Half

The lineup quirks mentioned above meant that in the first half Union II’s shape was comparatively rigid and static. It was focused on defending the back line, especially in the first quarter of the match. Keeper Freese made five saves against ten total Toronto first half shots.

And the baby Reds produced an expected goals statistic of 1.43 according to commentator Justin Glancy.  Union II’s Jesus Bueno played the single defensive midfielder in front of Turner and Jasinski and was on a mission of protection.  He got himself bounced onto the turf repeatedly.

Only towards the end of the half did Union II begin to generate any dangerous chances. Their first half expected goals number was under 0.2, according to Glancy.

Toronto’s four midfielders played in a flat line across, spreading Union II’s narrow diamond and providing threats from the flank. Their older starters did not generate severe danger to Freese, but Andre Blake’s backup had to be precise and perfect as he was.

Jose Riasco had his most consistently sustained impactful stretch as a Union II player. He did not match Chris Donovan’s mental and physical quickness in anticipating his chances defensively. But he looked for them as consistently as Donovan does. And offensively he began to show that he is a pickpocket. More than once he dispossessed his marker and turned defensive possession into a quarter-chance or a thrust.

Riasco was responsible for the half’s best chance to score by either side in the 30th minute. But Freese’s opposite number, Toronto keeper Luka Gavran, managed the save.  Donovan then threatened the far post in the 32nd minute.

As the half wound down play became less compact.  It had been open and end-to-end more than Union teams normally like, but both sides had kept their lines in contact with each other during the first 35 or so minutes. The spreading forecast developments the second half.

Second Half

Once again whatever coach LeBlanc’s halftime process may be produced a Union II offensive outburst at the beginning of the second half, even though his boys did not manage a score.

But the change in the match’s pattern of play emerging from the first half’s last few minutes became stronger.

Freese began to have to intervene beyond the penalty box against breakaways. Union II midfielders were not quite as able to shut down long diagonal service as  had been the case earlier. Probably Toronto coach Gianni Cimini had called for more long diagonals at halftime, and Ian Abbey, Boubacar Diallo, Jesus Bueno and Bajung Darboe had less jet fuel to inject into their afterburners.

Three total subs entered about the hour mark,  and for Union II Darboe and Riasco went off with Carlos Paternina and Nelson Pierre coming on. Paternina’s defensive range is not as extensive or as sustained as Darboe’s, although the Colombian cannot be challenged for either heart or courage. As an individual ballcarrier Pierre remains more effective one versus one than Riasco, although for the first time he was not as effective defensively.

But those two moves were the only ones LeBlanc could make against Cimini’s total of five, (until the 90th when Leblanc took an exhausted Ian Abbey off for Anthony Ramirez in a move that may perhaps have anticipated a penalty kick shoot out).

When Toronto brought on three fresh midfielders five minutes later, Union II began to start “hanging on”. Toronto ‘s youngsters seemed faster than their oldsters, and by the 77th minute the field was thoroughly spread out. Union middies would press forward into the attack and get caught too far forward to defend Toronto’s counters. Union II’s back five did a magnificent job shutting down the counters until the 92nd minute.  But compact team defending had become a thing of the past.

The Union next play on the “Juneteenth” holiday itself, hosting Chicago Fire II at Subaru Park at 2 PM Sunday, June 19th. The match will complete their first home-and-home season series. Back on April 24th the two sides tied 3-3 at Seat Geek Stadium   and Union II lost the penalty kick shootout 5-4.

Three Points
  1. No Centerbacks. Brandan Craig was already off to Honduras for USMNT U20 preparation. We have no way to know where Gilman and Nkanji may have been. We did notice that the Academy U17s seem to have been playing Maccabee Haifa in Israel the previous day. The decision was made not to draw reinforcement form Union Development Squad. In fairness to the decision-makers, it almost worked.
  2. Age and Depth. Without taking the time to make a careful survey, most of Toronto’s starters were a year or two older than their Union II counterparts judging from advance roster research. And there is no question that Toronto’s superior depth  told on the result.
  3. Standings. Union II remain 5th in the East, one point behind Rochester and the playoff line, and fourth in the Northeast division nine points behind New England.

Union II (4-4-2 “narrow diamond,” L-R): Matt Freese; Anton Sorenson, Cole Turner, Jack Jasinski, Frank Westfield; Jesus Bueno; Ian Abbey ( Anthony Ramirez, 90′), Boubacar Diallo; Bajung Darboe (Carlos Paternina, 61′); Chris Donovan, Jose Riasco (Nelson Pierre, 61′). Unused Substitutes: Brooks Thompson; Maike Villero. Distribution:  1st – 4, 2nd – 6, Am – 6. Injured: Juan Perdomo, Stefan Stojanovic, Gino Portella. Unknown: Nathan Nkanji, Jackson Gilman. USMNT U20s: Brandan Craig

Toronto II (3-4-3, L-R): Luka Gavran; Klaidi Cela (Joshua Gordon, 61′), Antony Curic (Nakaye Greenidge-Duncan, 68′), Rohan Goulbourne; Themi Antonoglou, Alonso Coello, Ralph Priso, Kadin Chung (Kundai Mawoko, 68′); Stefan Karajovanovic (Steffen Yeates, 68′), Paul Rothrock, Jordan Peruzza (Julian Altobelli, 89′). Unused substitutes: Baj Maan,  Mendi Essoussi, Markus Cimermancic.


Toronto     90+2 minute      Nakaye Greenidge-Duncan (unassisted)


Union II      22nd minute     Jose Riasco (delay)

Toronto II   40th minute     Kadin Chung (foul)

Toronto II   58th minute     Ralph Priso (foul)

Toronto II   66th minute     Rohan Goulbourne (foul)

Union II      77th minute      Carlos Paternina (dissent)

Union II      82nd minute     Jesus Bueno (foul)

Union II     89th minute      Jack Jasinski (foul)

Union II      90+3 minute    Boubacar Diallo (dissent)

Whistle: Ref: Youcef Boumsied;  ARs: Jason Olinski, Brad Doubrough;  4th: Fabrizio Stasolla


36.4 Possession % 63.6 2 Offsides 3
10 Shots 13 51 Duels won 42
3 Shots on goal 7 13 Tackles won 14
3 Blocked shots 4 6 Saves 3
318 Total passes 574 12 Clearances 9
77 Passing accuracy % 86.9 14 Fouls 15
5 Corners 3 5 Yellow cards 4
9 Crosses 11 0 Red cards 0

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