MLS NEXT Pro Match Report

Match report: Philadelphia Union II 1(3)-1(0) Chicago Fire FC II

Photo: Ben Ross

Sunday afternoon Philadelphia Union II drew 1-1 with Chicago Fire FC II at Subaru Park.

The home side scored on a sequence begun by their youngest player (attacking center mid Bajung Darboe, 15), continued by their second youngest (right back Frank Westfield, 16), and headed in by their third, (striker Nelson Pierre, 17). After Chicago equalized, in the penalty kick shootout Union II goalkeeper Matt Freese saved Fire II’s first three shots to hold a 3-0 clean sheet.


Back on the 24th of April in Chicago the teams tied 3-3, with Chicago winning that shootout 4-3.  Chris Donovan had a brace and midfielder Jack Jasinski had a red card in that match.

Yesterday, playing at home after the first team had played the night before meant the squad required reinforcements – but four homegrowns were away in Honduras with the USMNT U20s at Concacaf qualifying, including usual Union II starting center back Brandan Craig. Defensive depth had to adjust, since additionally Jackson Gilman has left for summer school at the University of Pittsburgh. Cole Turner and Stuart Findlay played the center backs, Jesus Bueno played defensive midfielder, Matt Real played left mid, and newly promoted and first-team debuted Donovan went the full 90 at striker.

The Academy U17s have qualified for their post-season but play has not started and thus the three amateurs eligible for the U17s were still available to Union II. The developmental quality of MLS NEXT Pro minutes rates more highly than those of MLS NEXT and all three  started (see Darboe, Westfield, and Pierre above).

Three games ago Chicago Fire FC II beat Toronto 6-2. Since then, they have lost consecutively to Columbus, 4-2, and St Louis CITY 2, 5-0. The Fire organization’s developmental philosophy provides them with roughly the same variation in player availability as Union II’s. Tactically Fire II favors four across the back.

First Half

Even though Chicago had played Union II previously this season, the U II high press applied immediately from tap-off rocked them onto their heels. Union II had an almost-chance 17 seconds after tap, a second at 0:56, and a third at 3:57 that went straight to the Fire’s keeper. Chicago did not possess the ball in Union II’s half until 8:25,  when they attacked down Union II’s right defensive channel and almost scored. Left winger Omari Glasgow was a handful the entire game, providing Union II right back Westfield several pace-based “growth opportunities” over the course of the 90 minutes.

After Union II’s initial burst of dominance, Chicago recovered and began to threaten regularly, but as head coach Marlon LeBlanc said post game his side successfully controlled the danger. Fire II accrued no tactical advantage out of their shape. The game seemed back-and-forth. Playing in the mid afternoon sunshine seemed to take energy out of the players on both sides after about half an hour.

Union II went to the half time locker room deservedly ahead 1-0.

Second Half

For the first time in recent memory Union II did not come out of the locker room with a burst of offensive pressure.

Perhaps Chicago was ready for it. Perhaps the three-week lay off for U II’s six first-team field players was affecting them,  much as it had the first team starters the night before against Cincinnati.

In the 49th minute, Cole Turner was stripped from behind by winger Glasgow while trying to pass towards Stuart Findlay – who was almost on the left touchline. Turner had no cover since Westfield was upfield. Glasgow counterattacked the isolated Turner, and after two changes of direction slotted home past Freese into the lefthand side netting.

In the 60th minute a Chicago goal was disallowed for offside. In the 63rd Matt Freese had to make a point blanker while facing two unmarked runners seeking to connect with a cross. On the counter Chris Donovan collected in the attacking third and rushed the other box, but did not generate a chance. In this match Donovan was a master of the legal shoulder charge, and excelled at controlling the ball with his back to goal while both arms were locked up behind him with his marker.  He also turned his man several times and more than once possessed the ball through multi-player attempts to tackle him.

Getting off actual shots was a different story.

About the hour mark LeBlanc sent Paternina on for Darboe, wanting the Colombian’s different  type of offensive creativity as he put it post-game. Darboe covers immense quantities of ground and positions himself with excellent anticipation. Paternina has more twinkle in his toes one v one.

In the 67th Chicago’s keeper missed a cross, but, just barely, so did Donovan at the back post.

Jose Riasco came on in the 73rd for a heavy-legged Pierre, and seemed better able than Donovan at getting off his shots. He was less picky about achieving perfect opportunities. But the Venezuelan’s best chance, from a melee in the center on the ten in the 90th minute, was deflected wide for a corner.

LeBlanc had sent Ian Abbey on for Jasinski in the 86th, swapping one academy midfielder for another, and then the whistle indicated it was time for the shootout and Freese’s Night Watch-like thousand-foot wall of impenetrable ice.

In seven days Union II host NYC FC II at Subaru Park  on Monday the 27th of June at 7 PM, once again playing the day after a first-team match.

Union II will lie 5th in the eastern conference with 17 points out of 11 games at the end of play Sunday because the late games cannot affect their portion of the table. Their two points from the two shootout wins are the difference between fifth and seventh. They lie fourth in the Northeast Division, one slot below non-division winner playoff qualification. Currently both of the eastern conference non-division winners would come from the Northeast.

Three Points
  1. Absent homegrowns. The US U20s beat St. Kitts & Nevis 10-0 Saturday afternoon in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. None of the Union quartet (see Anticipations) started. Quinn Sullivan subbed on at half as a striker and in the 47th minute caused a St. Kitts own goal. Subsequently he had two assists, one to Paxton Aaronson.  Aaronson and Jack McGlynn came on in the midfield about the hour mark, and within five minutes Aaronson had scored a brace . Brandan Craig did not play, but a comment made in the U. S. Soccer article summarizing the match suggests that he has been capped with this group, earlier presumably. In the group stage of this tournament teams play every other day, so we anticipate greater roles for Sullivan, Aaronson, and McGlynn today against Canada at 8:30 PM Eastern. They finish group play against Cuba on Wednesday, same start time.
  2. The Wall. We refer not to Game of Thrones’ 1000-foot-tall ice barrier, but to 6-foot 3-inch “MattyIce,” Matt Freese’s twitter handle. He has won two of the Union’s three penalty kick shoot-outs and the afore-mentioned two extra points. Union II head coach Marlon LeBlanc credited Sunday’s shootout clean sheet not only to his player but also to research and a shootout plan, which has been complied under the aegis of Director of Goalkeeping Phil Wheddon by Union II goalkeeper coach Karl Spratt, and Union II data analyst Austin Reynolds.
  3. A tribute to YSC Academy. In a wide-ranging, get-acquainted, post-match conversation with Union II goal scorer Nelson Pierre, the young man from Lebanon County detailed how he came to go to school and play soccer at YSC Academy.  During the explanation he made quite a statement about the academics-and-soccer community, “I literally have brothers with me everywhere I go every day.”


Union II (4-1-2-1-2 “narrow diamond”) Matt Freese (C); Anton Sorenson, Stuart Findlay, Cole Turner, Frank Westfield; Jesus Bueno; Matt Real, Jack Jasinski (Ian Abbey, 87′); Bajung Darboe (Carlos Paternina, 62′); Chris Donovan, Nelson Pierre (Jose Riasco, 73′). Unused substitutes: Brooks Thompson; Maike Villero, Nathan Nkanji, Juan Perdomo, Anthony Ramirez. Distribution: 1st – 7, 2nd – 7, Am – 5. Injury: Boubacar Diallo, Stefan Stojanovic, Gino Portella. U-20s: Brandan Craig, Quinn Sullivan, Paxton Aaronson, Jack McGlynn.

Fire II  (4-3-3) Mihajlo Miskovic; Charlie Ostrem, Ryan Quintos, Carlo Ritaccio (C), Justin Reynolds (Christian Baumgartner, HT); Diego Alvarado, Sergio Oregel (Allan Rodriguez, 81′), Richard Fleming; Omari Glasgow, Victor Bezerra, Alex Monis (Erik Kocs-Washburn, 76′). Unused substitutes: Aaron Katsimpalis; Michael Flores, Noeh Hernandez,  Luka Bezerra.


Union II     29th minute     Nelson Pierre (Frank Westfield)

Fire II        49th minute     Omari Glasgow (Victor Bezerra)

Penalty Kick Shootout

Mihajlo Miskovic vs U II

Result Matt Freese vs Fire II


Matt Real

Goal Victor Bezerra


Anton Sorenson

Goal Charlie Ostrem


Chris Donovan

Goal Carlo Ritaccio



Union II     57th minute     Bajung Darboe (high foot)

Fire II        78th minute     Sergio Oregel (foul)

Union II     80th minute    Carlos Paternina (professional foul)

Fire II         83rd minute    Carlo Ritaccio (foul)

Union II     86th minute     Jose Riasco (foul)

Union II     89th minute     Cole Turner (persistent infringement)

Whistle: Ref: Jeremy Scheer; AR1: Jeffrey Skinker; AR2: Max Smith; 4TH: Justin Saporito



  Chi II U II  

Chi II


Possession % 58.9 6 Offsides



Shots 7 52 Duels won



Shots on goal 2 9 Tackles won



Blocked shots 0 1 Saves



Total passes 479 14 Clearances



Passing accuracy % 79.5 14 Fouls



Corners 2 4 Yellow cards



Crosses 13 0 Red cards



  1. Andy Muenz says:

    Except for the finishing (and sometimes just taking the shot…Chris Donovan), this game was much more of what is expected from the Union’s style than Saturday night was. There was obviously Cole Turner’s bad giveaway at midfield, but given that he was playing out of position, hopefully that becomes a teachable moment.
    Since Real got the nod over Bueno as a sub Saturday night and both were playing Sunday, I tried to keep an eye on the two of them and I thought Real was the superior of the two in his overall game, although Bueno was taking many of the set pieces. Sorenson also had a very dangerous free kick from just outside the box which Chicago’s keeper had to make a tough save on.
    And Matt Freese was awesome on the PK’s.

    • Chris Gibbons says:

      This is great insight, Andy.

      From your seat, does it feel like Real is next up in the midfield – or just that the Union needed a left-sided guy on Saturday?

      • Andy Muenz says:

        Assuming he slots in for Flach when Flach moves in for Martinez or Wagner, I think he has more offensive skills than Flach (remember the late assist he had a few years ago to save a point against Orlando) but is not as strong defensively. I don’t think he has quite the upside of McGlynn, but given that there may be multiple spots to fill, he is likely to get more playing time later in the season or next year.
        I don’t see him as someone the Union will be able to sell to Europe, but he can still be a regular MLS player. And even though it seems like he’s been around forever, he only turns 23 next month.

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