MLS NEXT Pro Match Report / Philadelphia Union II

Match report: Philadelphia Union II 1-3 Orlando City B

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

Philadelphia Union II opened its 2023 MLS Next Pro season by losing to Orlando City B 3-1. Like the first teams’ game the night before, early in the match the visitors easily scored twice before Philadelphia began to defend more effectively.

In the fifth minute Orlando defender Abdi Salim calmly headed in a corner kick from Alejandro Granados, and in minute 17 a Union II failure to maintain possession in the midfield created a 3 v 1, during which outside back Franco Perez fed striker Cristofer Acuna for an equally easy score.

In the 30th minute, Union II striker Nelson Pierre, a first team homegrown loaned out to Union II, freed himself and the ball into the right offensive channel next to the penalty box and found fellow teenager CJ Olney on the left for a Union II tally. But in the 61st minute, Orlando restored its two-goal margin after Union goalkeeper Andrew Rick made a good save from the initial corner kick play but gave up a rebound. Halftime substitute Jack Lynn scored on a feed from Acuna, and Union II were unable to answer with actual finishes in spite of creating several hopeful threats.

Orlando City B is substantially different in 2023. Last season they were coming off an hiatus year and had a considerable number of young players to evaluate. That process is done and this year’s squad is smaller and noticeably better. Nine have survived from last season. The other ten on the roster are new and include two extensive South American professional resumes, one with 70 games at Vasco da Gama in Brazil (defensive central mid Juninho) and another with 94 from Rentistas in Uruguay (left back Perez) .

Some of Union II’s 2023 attackers are noticeably younger and less effective defensively. Neither Nelson Pierre nor Jose Riasco equalled the defensive effort intensely sustained by Chris Donovan last season. The key word is sustained, or perhaps an even better word would be “relentless.” Head coach Marlon LeBlanc and his technical staff have an opportunity to work their teaching magic as the season progresses, and they will undoubtedly mention where Donovan now plays at least once.

Union II never quit, as exemplified by striker Stefan Stojanovic, who moved back into an attacking midfield slot when striker Jose Riasco was introduced at halftime. The side displayed the usual post-halftime boost their fans came to expect from LeBlanc’s team last season. When that was spent, the coach made an energizing tactical move at the 75th minute: going to three center backs and two wingbacks, creating greater pressure out wide. At one point the change produced a sequence of five consecutive Union II corner kicks. But one was headed just over the bar and another allowed Orlando keeper Javier Otero to show why he accumulated over 100 saves last season.

Next Match

Union II hosts Inter Miami CF II next Sunday, April 2, at Subaru Park at 3:00 p.m.

Three Points
  1. Two legal minors started at the attacking midfield slots, David Vazquez (17.1-years-old) who subbed out at halftime, and Olney (16.3) who played the entire match. Olney was the primary but not exclusive free kick server on the afternoon.
  2. Gino Portella’s third year of soccer in the North America finally saw him start and complete his first regular season league match.
  3. Experience with the system heavily influenced game-day roster selection. While LeBlanc’s tactical shape is not the same as Curtin’s, the principles of play are identical. Every starter had at least a full season’s exposure to them, a decision that makes sense given how important instinctive instantaneous response is in making those principles work.


Union II Lineup4-2-2-2 (L-R): Andrew Rick; Anton Sorenson, Gino Portella, Devon Stopek (Luciano Sanchez 86′), Frank Westfield; Maike Villero (Pedro Alvarez 75′), Boubacar Diallo (Noe Uwimana 75′); CJ Olney, David Vazquez (Jose Riasco HT); Nelson Pierre, Stefan Stojanovic.

Unused Substitutes: Brooks Thompson; Luke Martelli, Nathan Nkanji,  Marcello Mazzola, Anthony Ramirez.  (1st team – 2; U II pro – 8; Acad – 10)

Starters’ Ages (rounded up or down to the nearest tenth of a year)

Rick Sorenson Portella Stopek Westfield Villero
17.2 20.2 22.0 18.2 17.3 22.2
Diallo Olney Vazquez Stojanovic Pierre
20.3 16.3 17.1 22.1 18.0

Orlando B lineup4-4-2 L-R: Javier Otero; Franco Perez, Nabilai Kibunguchy, Abdi Salim, Zakaria Taifi; Jhon Solis (Wilfredo Rivero 88′), Juninho, Jorge Almaguer, Alejandro Granados (Tahir Reid-Brown 79′); Moises Tablante (Jack Lynn, HT), Cristofer Acuna (Abdul Mohammed, 67′)

Unused Substitutes: Dominic Pereira; Fernando Sanchez, Chase Vazquez, .


OCB     5th minute       Abdi Salim (Alejandro Granados)

OCB     17th minute       Cristopher Acuna (Franco Perez)

U II      30th minute      CJ Olney (Nelson Pierre)

OCB      61st minute      Jack Lynn (Cristopher Acuna)


U II      44th minute      Yellow      Frank Westfield (argument)

OCB      44th minute     Yellow      Jorge Almaguer (argument)

U II      50th minute      Yellow      Maike Villero (foul)

U II      59th minute      Yellow      CJ Olney (foul)

OCB      68th minute      Yellow      Juninho (foul)

OCB      69th minute      Yellow      Abdi Salim (dissent)

OCB      79th minute      Yellow      Jhon Solis (foul)

OCB      90 + 5th min    Yellow      Wilfredo Rivero (foul)

U II      90 + 7th min     Yellow      Pedro Alvarez (foul)

U II Statistic OCB U II Statistic OCB
53.3 Possession % 46.7 4 Offsides 2
14 Shots 12 39 Duels won 46
5 Blocked shits 3 7 Tackles  won 11
3 Shots on goal 8 5 Saves 2
322 Total Passes 305 5 Clearances 24
78.6 Pass Accuracy % 74.1 18 Fouls 19
9 Corners 4 4 Yellow Cards 5
27 Crosses 3 0 Red Cards 0

Ref: Sergii Boiko, AR1: Patrick Casey, AR2 Robert Cordrey, 4TH Sharon Gingrich.

One Comment

  1. Gruncle Bob says:

    My guess is that the average age of Orlando’s line-up is probably 2+ years older than U II’s. Pierre and Riasco need to work on getting stronger. They were both bodied by ORL’s bigger/older CBs.
    It also got more than a bit chippy at times. In the 2nd half it appeared that an ORL player (#58, I think, the $ guy from Brazil) appeared to wind up and attempt to kick a U II player. It looked particularly vicious, but without the benefit of replay it’s not alway easy to tell. I hope the league reviews the video for potential disciplinary action.

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