MLS NEXT Pro Match Report / Philadelphia Union II

Match report: FC Cincinnati 2 2-1 Philadelphia Union II

Photo: Ruairi Rossi

FC Cincinnati 2 defeated Philadelphia Union II 2-1 at Northern Kentucky University Sunday evening.

Bret Halsey scored the opener from a sharp angle in the left channel in the 42nd minute on an overlap that seemed to catch Union II’s defense by surprise. After the boys from Philly went down a man in the 47th minute on center back Hugo Le Guennec’s second yellow card of the match, unmarked Gerardo Valenzuela laced a grass-cutter to the far post from the right corner of the penalty box in the 59th on an assist from Morgan Marshall for the match winner.

Rutgers-bound senior Luciano Sanchez gave himself an early graduation present with a crisp near post strike through traffic on an assist from C. J. Olney in the 74th minute to avert a Cincinnati clean sheet.

In advance

The Union played at home Saturday night several hours after Union II left for Cincinnati. The Academy U17s won Thursday evening at Cabrini College against New York Red Bull 5-1 and then Saturday morning at YSC Academy against Montreal 2-0 to qualify for MLS NEXT Cup.

Union II had its eleven professionals, the two loaned-down first teamers Nelson Pierre and Anton Sorenson, plus third goal keeper Holden Trent, and Academy U17s Francis Westfield, Alex Perez, C. J. Olney, David Vazquez, and Daniel Kreuger. The 20th player was consolation scorer Sanchez.

FC Cincinnati 2 had not won in five weeks, and had never before earned a point against Union II. As they have done recently, Cincinnati deployed three center backs with five midfielders to front them. Despite the first team having an Open Cup match on Tuesday, extra reserves came down for the match, prominent among them reserve goal keeper Evan Lauro and center mid Malik Pinto.

First half

Both halves required hydration breaks meaning five minutes of stoppage time for each.

Union II had more possession in the opponents defensive third, but put only one of seven shots on target. They often tried to beat the first defender on the dribble but rarely succeeded. Cincinnati’s five midfielders clogged the spaces into which Union midfielders would normally expect to play their space-finding passes.

In the 42nd minute Cincinnati left wingback Bret Halsey overlapped down Cincy’s left channel while a horizontal dribble penetration by Jesus Castellano moved the ball from Cincy’s right into the center and took Union II’s defense by surprise for the half’s only goal.

Holden Trent twice saved 1 v 1 breakaway shots in the half.

Second half 

After Mathew Dreas subbed on for Pinto at halftime, the even back-and-forth match changed its nature in the 47th minute when Hugo Le Guennec recovered at pace towards a breakaway developing just outside the center of the box and tripped Cincy’s breakaway threatener from behind. He was not the last man back, so he received a yellow but it was his second. From minute 48 forward Union II played a man down and Cincinnati had the bulk of possession in their opponents defensive third.

Given Francis Westfield’s defensive versatility in moving back to center back from defensive mid, the remaining starters continued until the 59th minute when four were subbed off, at the time when they probably were scheduled originally to do so. Sanchez came on for Nelson Pierre at striker, so did Jose Riasco for Stefan Stojanovic. Maike Villero came on for Alex Perez at defensive mid, and Daniel Kreuger replaced Anton Sorenson shifting the versatile Westfield to outside back.

Six minutes after that Boubacar Diallo replaced David Vazquez who had earlier received a yellow card.

Holden Trent had three more important saves, and credit must be given to Union II’s never-ending attempts to compete.

Next match

In a rare Friday game Union II host Atlanta United II June 9 at Subaru Park at 7 PM.

Three points
  1. At the 2023 FIFA U20 World Cup in Argentina  the U. S. unsurprisingly lost to Uruguay 2-0. Here is the link to the match report. Brandan Craig and Jack McGlynn played the full 90 at center center back and central midfield respectively. Quinn Sullivan entered as a substitute in the 69th minute after Uruguay moved further ahead on a U. S. own goal.
  2. Five of Union II’s front six were teenagers, exemplifying Ernst Tanner’s emphasis on developing players when they are that age.
  3. Sixteen-and-a-half-year-old C. J. Olney once again played a full 90-minute MLS Next Pro match. Seven of his eight appearances have been starts and five of those have been full 90s, with a sixth being 88.

Union II Lineup (4-2-2-2, L-R): Starters: Holden Trent; Juan Castillo, Gino Portella, Hugo Le Guennec, Anton Sorenson (Daniel Kreuger 60′); Frank Westfield, Alex Perez (Maike Villero 60′); C. J. Olney, David Vazquez (Boubacar Diallo 67′); Nelson Pierre (Luciano Sanchez 60′), Stefan Stojanovic (Jose Riasco 60′). Unused substitutes: Brooks Thompson; Nathan Nkanji, Carlos Rojas, Pedro Alvarez. 1st – 3, U II – 11, Acad – 6.

Starters’ ages

Trent Castillo Portella Le Guennec Sorenson Perez
23.9 20.7 22.2 23.3 20.4 17.1
Westfield Olney Vazquez Stojanovic Pierre
17.5 16.5 17.3 22.3 18.2


Cincy 2 Lineup (3-5-2, L-R): Starters: Evan Lauro; Isaiah Foster, Joey Akpunonu, Malik Pinto (Mathew Dreas HT); Morgan Marshall, Kai Thomas (David Garcia 69′), Gerardo Valenzuela, Salim Adams, Bret Halsey; Bejamin Stitz (Haroun Conteh 90+3′), Jesus Castellano (Ryder Mills 60′). Unused substitutes: Hunter Morse; Owen Noverr, Darrell Turcios, Nicholas McHenry, .


C 2       42nd minute      Bret Halsey (Jesus Castellano)

C 2       59th minute       Gerardo Valenzuela (Morgan Marshall)

U II     74th minute       Luciano Sanchez (C. J. Olney)


U II     23rd minute      Yellow      Hugo Le Guennec (foul)

U II     47th minute      Yellow      Hugo Le Guennec (foul) 2nd Yellow = Red

U II     55th minute      Yellow       David Vazquez (foul)

C 2      81st minute       Yellow       Isaiah Foster (foul)

Because Le Guennec is a Union II professional, he will serve his suspension when Cincy 2 visits Subaru Park on August 13.

C 2 Statistic U II C 2 Statistic U II
60.1 Possession % 39.9 0 Offsides 2
15 Shots 13 73 Duels won 61
7 Shots on goal 3 15 Tackles  won 15
1 Blocked shots 7 2 Saves 5
442 Total Passes 275 22 Clearances 13
78.7 Pass Accuracy % 65.1 9 Fouls 13
4 Corners 4 1 Yellow Cards 2
4 Crosses 19 0 Red Cards 1

Ref: Calin Radosav, AR1: Jacob Little, AR2: Eric Del Rosario, 4TH: Austin Saini.


  1. Andy Muenz says:

    So far I’ve been really impressed with Olney and I’m hoping he’ll be the next one in the Aaronson/McGlynn/Sullivan train.
    Riasco is the first player I’ve seen wearing long sleeves in a game with 2 hydration breaks.
    It was a shame they went down a man (albeit deservedly so) because the Union 2 were playing fairly evenly except for not putting the ball in the net despite Cincinnati using more of their first team backups.

    • Tim Jones says:

      Good catch on Riasco’s sleeves!
      I think I remember that last summer Rutgers did not take its player until later on in July, the tow-head speed merchant Ian Abbey.
      It would be useful if Luciano Sanchez can stay around until then.

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