MLS NEXT Pro Match Report

Match report: Philadelphia Union II 2-2 (5-4) Inter Miami II

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Goalkeeper Matt Freese saved Inter Miami II’s first penalty kick in the sudden death portion of the shootout, earning Union II an important second point in the standings after a 2-2 draw in regulation.

Miami had opened the scoring from Romeo Beckham on a penalty kick in the 29th minute conceded by Nathan Nkanji. Union II came back late in the first half, using goals from Jose Riasco in the 35th minute and Paxten Aaronson in the 43rd to take a lead.

Miami tied it on a long range shot in the 74th minute by Lawson Sunderland, creating the shootout and Freese’s heroics.

This was a six-point match for Union II against the team immediately ahead of them in the table, as Miami went into yesterday’s match two points below the playoff line and two points ahead Philly.

First Half

Miami did not cross midfield for the first nine or so minutes. They expected high pressure, got it, and dealt with it by playing back to their back line.

After the first ten minutes the field became comparatively spread out and Miami began to run counter attacks. Union midfielders press forward into the attack aggressively, and if possession is lost they tend to be caught up field allowing opponents to counter.

A Brandan Craig corner kick in the 21st minute was struck off the bar, for the match’s first decent chance to score.

In the 29th minute a Miami thrust into the area resulted in a penalty kick called on Nathan Nkanji, who had engaged in Greco-Roman wrestling with Shanyder Borgelin from the opening tap. Romeo Beckham stepped to the mark, Matt Freese dove left, and the Miami winger slotted down the center for a 1-0 lead.

The Union II response to the challenge was commendable. Continued long balls, directly to the front and diagonally to the flanks, kept the pressure on the Floridians. They did not attempt to contest the Union II center backs when defending, which allowed the aforesaid long play to occur unimpeded.

Paxten Aaronson’s energy and dribbling skill created several opportunities down the Union II’s left outside channel. In the 35th minute he found Jose Riasco in the box with both the keeper and a defender to beat. A fake and a ball transfer from left foot to right foot put both Miami men on the ground and the Venezuelan string bean calmly made no mistake from the center of the box into the undefended net to tie the score.

Then in the 43rd minute an Aaronson pass put Jose Bueno into open space on the left side of the box, and the Venezuelan DM chipped it back across the box to Aaronson’s head for the lead.

Second Half

Boubacar Diallo came on for Aaronson at halftime, telegraphing Aaronson’s likely involvement with the first team in midweek. The Senegalese amateur was initially a like for like positional exchange and had some positive influences on the attack.

The essential pattern of the half was end to end. Miami tended towards shorter passes with greater possession before springing themselves into lightning thrusts. Union II relied on Brandan Craig, Jesus Bueno, Cole Turner, and Anton Sorenson to continue the long balls both direct and diagonal for the strikers and the flank mids.

In the 56th Freese made a nice save against Borgelin on a break and immediately took care of the rebound. In the 59th another such break fizzled before it generated a shot, but Nkanji kicked the ball over the end line after the whistle and suffered a yellow card for delay. Ten minutes later he was subbed off for Juan Perdomo who played left flank mid, shifted Diallo to defensive mid in the double pivot next to Bueno, and dropped Turner back to left center back next to Craig. That meant Craig and Turner now shared responsibility for Borgelin, who had been marked almost man for man by Nkanji until he went off.

In the 67th minute after collecting a Beckham free kick generated by a Sullivan foul, Freese went to the turf injured. He recovered after the ministrations of Union II’s trainer, and being a keeper did not have to go off. During that interlude Nelson Pierre came on for Riasco in a like for like at striker, and Perdomo replaced Nkanji as referenced above.

Pierre immediately broke in on a breakaway forcing a nice foot save from Miami’s keeper Andre Zuluaga who did not have time to get down to the ball with his hands.

In the 77th minute, a long distance shot from Miami defensive midfielder Lawson Sunderland deflected off Brandan Craig’s back as the Union II man tried to pirouette out of the way. The deflection completely wrong-footed Union II’s captain to tie the match at 2.

It will surprise no one that Miami showed a burst of energy in the attack for the next several minutes. Union II conceded three consecutive corners because of failure to clear into possession. But then  they did creating a nice counterattack only to have Bueno’s shot sail high and harmless.

By this point in the match both sides were walking from exhaustion at every possible opportunity.

Three minutes of stoppage time were announced. In the second of those minutes a shot from Bryan Destin to the far post just grazed Freese’s outstretched fingers enough to deflect off the post and out rather than in. Then in short order the final whistle blew.

In the shootout, Zuluaga saved Sorenson’s attempt in Union II’s second slot, but Freese again saved Destin in Miami’s third. He saved Beckham’s fifth try the first time but was called for leaving his line early and the young Englishman made good on his second try to force the sixth round.

This time Nelson Pierre converted – he had missed in a shootout in Florida much earlier – and then Freese’s heroics earned Union II the extra shootout point.

Next match, standings, & playoff status

Union II next play Sunday, August 21 at 7 p.m. against New England Revolution II at Subaru Park.

It is the first of nine points available in seven days, as Philly faces Revs II, NYC II, and Crew 2. All three are above them in the table. The three results will shape Union II’s playoff prospects because they are fully half of the side’s remaining points-earning opportunities.

With the draw Union II now lie seventh  in the table on 28 points, one behind both Miami and New England.

Three Points
  1. Jose Riasco’s first Union II goal was a thing of beauty. Its poised confidence suggests why Ernst Tanner worked so hard to get him. It also leads to the thought that in addition to learning English and a new culture, the young man is having to learn to be so much more than just an in-the-box center forward. On the night he showed more flashes of defensive speed and intensity than ever before, and his play surrounded by first-teamers showed greater promise than it has done.  But he still is not a good bet to win fifty-fifty balls, let alone any with lower odds. He teammates shared joy at his opening his account which was enjoyable to see.
  2. Quinn Sullivan showed well as a ball winner on the flank. When attacking, he does not seem as comfortable as he might playing with Union II players with whom he is not familiar . His full-match shift suggests that he is not expected to have more than a substitute’s role in Dallas on Wednesday.
  3. As he has in every Union II PK shootout when eligible, Cole Turner took the fifth shot. His shot’s power is epic. This time he went right at the keeper but high into the roof above him.  The shot would have defeated Lev Yashin of the Soviet Union’s 1966 side at the World Cup in England.

Union II: (4-2-2-2 “empty bucket” L-R) Matt Freese; Anton Sorenson, Brandan Craig, Nathan Nkanji (Juan Perdomo 69′), Frank Westfield; Cole Turner, Jesus Bueno; Paxten Aaronson (Boubacar Diallo HT), Quinn Sullivan, Chris Donovan, Jose Riasco (Nelson Pierre 69′). Unused substitutes: Brooks Thompson; Maike Villero, Bajung Darboe, Carlos Paternina, Stefan Stojanovic, Logan Oliver. Distribution: 1st – 8, 2nd – 8, Am – 4. Injury rehab: Gino Portella.

Miami II: (4-3-3, L-R) Andre Zuluaga; Noah Allen, Abel Caputo, Modesto Mendez, Logan Batiste (Israel Boatwright HT); Lawson Sunderland, David Ruiz, Braxton Najib (Bryan Destin 74′); Tyler Bagley (George Acosta 61′), Shanyder Borgelin, Romeo Beckham. Unused substitutes: Brett Kaminski; Pedro Faife, Drew Hardin.


Miami II         29th minute         Romeo Beckham (PK)

Union II        35th minute         Jose Riasco (Paxten Aaronson)

Union II        43rd minute        Paxten Aaronson (Jesus Bueno)

Miami II        76th minute        Lawson Sunderland (David Ruiz)

Penalty Kick Shootout

Andre Zuluaga vs U II Result Matt Freese vs Mia II Result
Brandan Craig Goal Noah Allen Goal
Anton Sorenson Saved George Acosta Goal
Quinn Sullivan Goal Bryan Destin Saved
Jesus Bueno Goal Shanyder Borgelin Goal
Cole Turner Goal Romeo Beckham Goal
Nelson Pierre Goal Abel Caputo Saved

Miami II         32nd minute        Yellow        Shanyder Borgelin (foul)

Union II         60th minute         Yellow        Nathan Nkanji (delay)


Ref: Kenneth Rojas,  AR1: Patrick Casey, AR2: William Aten, 4TH: Justin Saporito

44.7 Possession % 55.3 2 Offsides 6
16 Shots 16 37 Duels won 47
4 Shots on goal 8 12 Tackles won 8
3 Blocked shots 5 5 Saves 2
356 Total passes 450 18 Clearances 21
77.5 Passing accuracy % 84 13 Fouls 8
7 Corners 7 1 Yellow cards 1
9 Crosses 11 0 Red cards 0


  1. Enrico del Savvagio says:

    It was a pleasant evening for a football match. U2 started well with pressure and found success over the top of Miami’s midfield. Miami’s penalty was against the run a play. The second half was choppier for U2 as Miami defended against the long ball better And U2 couldn’t pass through the Midfield, partly because Bueno’s pace and decision making with the ball at his feet was poor, allowing Miami to regain their defensive shape. Otherwise it was a solid performance. In the dying moment of the game Freese made an unbelievable , World class save to take it to penalties. If you haven’t seen it, find the replay: fingertips.

  2. Andy Muenz says:

    I thought Paxten really worked well with Sorenson and Riasco. Speaking of Riasco, while still not 100% in the press, he’s definitely bought into it more than earlier in the season.
    I also think Bueno is playing much better than he had earlier in the season and it might be time to give him some more time spelling Bedoya for the first team.

    • Enrico del Savvagio says:

      Agreed on Paxton. He exploded around defenders on a number of occasions: they were helpless. I’ll give Bueno another look. I haven’t seen enough of him to make a full conclusion. From what I saw in this match, he could not replace Bedoya’s Intensity and pace. Another moderate concern I have is if a certain left back flies the coop to Europe, and Real becomes the starter. Don’t get me wrong I’m a huge fan of Matt Real: I’ve known him since he was a kid. But if things play out well for the balance of the season, the only way we’re competing with LA is with perfect defending. Oh, and by the way, thanks for the report TJ.

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