MLS NEXT Pro Match Report / Philadelphia Union II

Match report: Philadelphia Union II 3-4 New England Revolution II

Photo courtesy Philadelphia Union II

It was the best of games.

Then it was the worst of games.

In the end, Philadelphia Union II lost to New England Revolution II Sunday afternoon at Subaru Park 4-3.

After coming back from a goal down to lead 3-1 in the first 74 minutes, Union II surrendered three consecutive goals from the 75th minute onward to lose all three points to the visitors.

The match pitted two first-team scorers against each other. Philadelphia Union’s Chris Donovan had a brace and and an assist in creating Union II’s comeback. New England’s Esmir Bajraktarevic had a hat trick for the match, including two of New England’s final three, his last being the stoppage time winner.

In Advance

The match was played at Subaru Park the afternoon after the Union had clean-sheeted New England Saturday night 3-0. Each first team had a full week for recovery ahead of them, maximizing the roster choices available to supplement Union II and Revs II.

Revs II thumped Union II in early April in Foxborough 5-1 when the Philadelphians had to use an improvised pair of center backs for most of the match due to injuries.

Carlos Rojas

Union II announced the acquisition of a new defender three days before the match last Thursday. Carlos Rojas is a left-footed 19.3-year-old center back. Union II tweets that he is on loan for the rest of the season. Transfermarkt says Union II has an option to buy and that his primary position is central defense.

Rojas is a Venezuelan youth international with nine total caps and 809 minutes for their U-20s. He appeared most recently this past January at the South American U23 championships where he started all six matches and played every minute.

He comes from Venezuelan club Deportiva La Guaira of Caracas where he has had one start this season and six times dressed on the bench but did not appear. The season totaled 13 matches while he was there. His career minutes since 2019 in all the Venezuelan first division side’s various competitions total 1,179 with two goals, an assist, and three yellow cards.

Rojas subbed on at center back, when Hugo Le Guennec reached the end of the time allotted him by the medical staff in the process of his injury recovery, presumably. Gino Portella was suspended for yellow card accumulation, while Nathan Nkanji was not yet fit enough to dress, although he has now had at least one full unrestricted practice.

It’s understood that Rojas had a 12-day trialist period, towards the end of which he was signed. He deserves full credit for stepping into a breach under full assault while barely knowing his teammates, let alone how to the play their complex defensive system.

All credit to his bravery.

First half

The first few minutes saw New England in control, a momentum reinforced by the opening goal from Bajraktarevic, which came off a free kick that struck the wall, wrong-footing Union II goalkeeper Holden Trent and therefore the power behind his attempted save.

The Boys in Blue responded virtually immediately and six minutes later they had equalized. From in or behind the center circle Jeremy Rafanello found Donovan, who had a clear pace advantage over Revs II defender Pierre Cayet. The Conestoga man made no mistake scorching a worm burner to the far post.

Seven minutes after that it was Donovan’s turn to serve. He once again outpaced Cayet and crossed low through the box where Jose Riasco dummied to allow CJ Olney to close unmarked on the far post for the lead.

Second half

New England tried to regroup at halftime and create offensive pressure.

Their efforts opened themselves to the second part of Donovan’s brace in the 51st minute, as a well-judged Francis Westfield interception led the counter-attacking Rafanello to penetrate deep into the right channel’s corner from whence his cross found a Donovan body part to deflect into the far post’s side netting.

Until the 65th minute from Union II’s perspective it was the best of games.

The 65th was when the presumed medical requirements dictated the departure of Hugo Le Guennec from center back, together with that of Juan Castillo from left back and C. J. Olney from left attacking mid. The entire left side of the defense was replaced.

Union goalkeeper Holden Trent had already been forced to make a nice double save when the rebound from the first shot was struck well but was collected. Union II’s starting defense had started to tire.

Two minutes after the substitutions came a second warning, when a strong counterattacking New England goal was correctly disallowed as offside. In the 74th minute a New England drive ricocheted off the top of the crossbar, and a minute after that Bajraktarevic dribbled through two or three Union II challengers with ease and delivered a rifle shot from distance to start the comeback against the comeback.

In the 82nd minute Marcos Dias tied the score, and on the ensuing counter thrust Donovan unfortunately put his header off the far post. In the 86th Maike Villero earned his second yellow, Union II went down a man, and New England took the bit between its teeth.

In the first minute of stoppage time Bajraktarevic finished his hat trick to complete transforming it into the worst of games.

Next match

Union II play this coming Wednesday, May 24 away to Charlotte FC’s farm team Crown Legacy at 7 PM on Apple Plus. Before Sunday’s matches Crown Legacy lay first in the eastern conference table on 22 points and were undefeated at home. The side has started its first year of existence well.

Three points
  1. In the 2023 FIFA U20 World Cup in Argentina, the US U20s defeated Ecuador 1-0 on a second half stoppage winner. They lie second in their group’s table behind Slovakia on goal difference. Brandan Craig, Jack McGlynn, and Quinn Sullivan all started. Craig and McGlynn played the full match, Sullivan subbed off after 65 minutes. The pre-tournament expectation was that the Ecuador match would be the U. S.’s most difficult.
  2. The 69th minute displayed the first application of MLS NEXT Pro’s new rule that if a player is down injured for more than 30 seconds then at the referee’s discretion he must sit out on the sidelines for three minutes before returning. New England winger Dias seemed to have no contact with his Union II marker suffering a one-car accident, and when he arose having suffered no significant harm he was kept on the sideline for the allotted time.
  3. When Hugo Le Guennec recovers to 90-minute match fitness, he will be a strong addition to Union II’s defense. He reads the game aggressively and accurately behind zone 14 and cooperates well with his double sixes while he has the energy.

Union II Lineup (4-2-2-2, L-R): Starters: Holden Trent; Juan Castillo (Anton Sorenson 65′), Hugo Le Guennec (Carlos Rojas 65′), Daniel Kreuger, Francis Westfield; Boubacar Diallo, Maike Villero; C. J. Olney (Stefan Stojanovic 65′), Jeremy Rafanello; Chris Donovan (Luke Martelli 87′), Jose Riasco (Nelson Pierre 80′). Unused substitutes:Andrew Rick; Noe Uwimana,  Anthony Ramirez, Luciano Sanchez. 1st – 4, U II – 8, Acad – 8. Suspended: Gino Portella. Injury recovery: Nathan Nkanji

Starters’ ages

Trent Castillo LeGuennec Kreuger Westfield Diallo
23.9 20.6 23.3 17.4 17.5 20.5
Villero Rafanello Olney Donovan Riasco
22.3 23.1 16.4 22.8 19.3

Rev II Lineup (4-3-3, L-R) Starters: Jacob Jackson; Peyton Miller (Colby Quinones 66′), Pierre Cavet, Victor Souza, Santiago Suarez (Jacob Akanyirige 66′); Esmir Bajraktarevic, Joshua Bolma (Malcolm Fry HT), Jake Rozhansky; Marcos Dias (Ben Awashie 90+4′), Jordan Adebayo-Smith (Weverton 80′), Damian Rivera. Unused Substitutes: Nico Campuzano; Italo, Brandonn Bueno, Nakye Greenidge-Duncan.


Rev II      11th minute      Esmir Bajraktarevic

U II         17th minute       Chris Donovan (Jeremy Rafanello)

U II         23rd minute      C. J. Olney (Chris Donovan)

U II         51st minute       Chris Donovan (Jeremy Rafanello)

Rev II     75th minute      Esmir Bajraktarevic (Jake Rozhansky)

Rev II     82nd minute     Marcos Dias

Rev II     90+1 minute      Esmir Bajraktarevic (Damion Rivera)


U II         40th minute       Yellow       Maike Villero (persistent infringement)

U II         43rd minute       Yellow       Francis Westfield (foul)

U II        86th minute.      Red            Maike Villero (2nd yellow)

U II Statistic NE II U II Statistic NE II
31.5 Possession % 68.5 2 Offsides 1
16 Shots 12 38 Duels won 47
7 Shots on goal 8 15 Tackles  won 8
4 Blocked shots 1 4 Saves 4
248 Total Passes 565 9 Clearances 13
72.6 Pass Accuracy % 85.8 15 Fouls 3
8 Corners 5 2 Yellow Cards 0
13 Crosses 12 1 Red Cards 0

Ref: JJ Bilinski, AR1: Patrick Casey, AR2: Zeno Cho, 4TH: Stephen Foster.


  1. Andy Muenz says:

    Obviously the team was missing Craig on defense. One thing to note about Ecuador is that they were the team to knock the US out of the tournament 4 years ago (obviously with different personnel). Hopefully the team can blow Fiji out tomorrow to make up that goal differential.
    Rather than get too upset (like I do when the Union blow a lead like that) I’m able to rationalize that this is a development team and some of the players have a long way to go before they make the first team (if ever).
    The second of the three points brings up an issue with the 3 minute rule. The ref blew the play dead even though he wasn’t calling a foul and the Union II had the ball, indicating he thought it was a head injury. He immediately whistled the medical staff onto the field without waiting 15 seconds for the player to try to get up (which is correct procedure for a head injury but not for a non head injury). I was sitting near the New England bench in the second half and when it was realized that it wasn’t a head injury, the New England coach was LIVID. He did not feel the player should have to sit out due to a ref’s error. Needless to say, his pleas fell on deaf ears but I could definitely see his point.
    And what a 24 hour period for Donovan with 2 goals and 2 assists (including the one with the first team) and nearly a hat trick.

  2. Tim Jones says:

    Post game communication with authoritative Union II sources indicate further information that deserves recognition.
    At 16 and whatever fraction years old, CJ Olney’s 65 minutes went well beyond usual expectations for effort and endurance because he had played a lot in all the MLS NEXT Flex U17 matches the previous week. Were he a British military person at the very least he would have earned a “mention in dispatches.”
    Danny Kreuger did the same, although as a center back he normally covers less ground than an attacking mid.
    A further consideration in bringing Le Guennec off at 65 is the U II match Wednesday and the one next Sunday. He will be needed for both, three games in seven days coming off injury recovery.
    I am guessing that the sports science staff has work load number parameters designed to prevent re-injury or compensatory injury.
    Nkanji did not dress because his training load post injury has not met the minimums of the aforesaid presumed parameters.
    Finally, David Vazquez and Alex Perez played at 9 AM Sunday morning against Charlotte’s U17s (trying to get the U17s qualified for MLS NEXT Cup playoffs still) and were obviously done for the day.
    Having suffered an injury against Miami, Pedro Alvarez was out of training all last week and unavailable to dress.

  3. HopkinsMD says:

    Thank you, Tim. Insightful, as always.

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