MLS NEXT Pro Match Report / Philadelphia Union II

Match report: Philadelphia Union II 1-0 Atlanta United 2

Photo: Philadelphia Union II communications

Philadelphia Union II defeated Atlanta United 2 at Subaru Park Friday night 1-0, Union II’s second home win and its first clean sheet victory of the season.

The matchup of the 7th place and 8th place teams in MLS NEXT Pro’s Eastern conference was closer than the pre-game five point difference suggested. Union II found one moment of top quality consecutive precision and that was the difference.

In the 57th minute a one-touch pass from striker Stefan Stojanovic freed fellow striker Nelson Pierre to penetrate towards the end line in the right channel. Pierre delivered a cross on the ground excellently curled behind the Atlanta defense onto which attacking midfielder C. J. Olney’s perfectly timed run pounced. The 16-and-a-half-year-old beat Atlanta’s first-team deep reserve keeper Vicente Reyes to the ball for a seven-yard tap-in and the win.

In advance

Air quality did not delay the match. The Philadelphia skyline was identifiable from the press box at tap-off.

Union II and Atlanta 2’s match preceded those of their respective first teams. Flexible reinforcement was further excluded by geography as none of the three matches involved were played within easy travel distance of each other. Union II had only its two loaned down first teamers. Atlanta 2 had four.

Jack McGlynn, Quinn Sullivan, and Brandan Craig had returned to the Union from the 2023 FIFA U20 World Cup, increasing overall first team roster quantity. But the first team needed to prepare against impending international break absences, with Richard Odada and perhaps Olivier Mbaizo already having left. And the five academy’s U17s needed tune-ups for MLS Next Cup next weekend.

Atlanta 2 attacking midfielder Nick Firmino had been a key offensive piece throughout the season. He scored the winner in the baby Five Stripes 1-0 clean sheet against Union II April 30th down south. Philly’s defense allowed the Brazilian few opportunities.

First Half

In a cagey first half with each side respecting the quick strike potential of the other, neither team forced the other’s keeper to make a difficult save.

Atlanta had the greater threats. Both came from open headers off corner kicks, but neither was put on frame. Union II’s combination zone and man defensive scheme did not successfully anticipate and contest the runner  either time.

The Boys in Blue’s best chance came from an early cross from the left channel in the 24th minute that found the opposite midfielder’s foot inside the penalty spot, but the low shot went wide left.

Otherwise each side played cautious possession out of the back. Atlanta heavily favored attacking down its right channel, looking through winger Luke Brennan who was repeatedly a handful for Union II left back Juan Castillo. At first Atlanta was playing for crosses into its left channel looking for Firmino. Later Firmino shifted more toward Brennan for combination opportunities. Union II keeper Brooks Thompson twice anticipated danger well, coming out of his penalty box at speed to intervene successfully.

Second half

Neither team made a halftime substitution.

Atlanta came out hot off the tap, but  Thompson again intervened outside the box to clear the danger.

Union II responded with its best sustained offensive possession of the match up to that point, the most noticeable improvement being that left center back Carlos Rojas seemed much less nervous, more willing to thrust himself forward to defend and to try medium range line-breaking passes.

At times Atlanta approximated a 4-2-4 offensive shape. Union II tried to maintain its restraining line almost at the midfield stripe the entire match. Atlanta occasionally tried long direct service out of the back, but such service either lacked the necessary precision, or the finishes it developed were not well taken. Time after time it felt like the Georgians were four against four. But UnionII’s defense held, sometime’s just barely.

After the goal, Atlanta 2 coach Steve Cooke quickly brought on two of his reserve first-teamers to try to boost his offense.

But Union II’s defensive six remained strong. For the first time the teenage defensive central midfield pair of Francis Westfield and Alex Perez played 89 minutes, (when Perez came off for Daniel Kreuger). They were instrumental in keeping the clean sheet. Westfield’s anticipation and speed of intervention defensively deserve mention.

Anton Sorenson played his best overall game of the season.

The back four of Castillo, Rojas, Le Guennec, and Sorenson did just enough in that high line to frustrate the Georgians time after time. Brooks Thompson directed his defenders well. and the aforementioned Westfield and Perez were rarely caught out of position upfield.

Next Match

Union II will host Eastern conference leader Crown Legacy (Charlotte FC’s farm team) in five days Wednesday June 14th at 7 PM.

Three points
  1. YSC Academy Graduation occurred Friday morning.  Five brand new alumni dressed for a graduation party at the pitch: Nelson Pierre, Luciano Sanchez, Marcello Mazzola, Luke Martelli, and Anthony Ramirez.
  2. An hour before game time LAFC’s website announced they have signed former Union academy midfielder Bajung Darboe as a homegrown player through 2026 with an option for 2027. They obtained his homegrown rights from Minnesota United for the usual $50 K GAM. Darboe joined the Union’s academy after Minnesota had closed theirs.
  3. Five Union II players will feature at MLS NEXT CUP for the Union Academy U17 side: goalkeeper Andrew Rick, center back Daniel Kreuger, defensive midfielder Perez, and attacking midfielders Olney and David Vazquez.

 Union II Lineup (4-2-2-2, L-R): Starters: Brooks Thompson: Juan Castillo, Carlos Rojas, Hugo Le Guennec, Anton Sorenson; Francis Westfield, Alex Perez (Daniel Kreuger 89′); C. J. Olney (Gino Portella 89′), David Vazquez (Luciano Sanchez 73′); Stefan Stojanovic, Nelson Pierre (Boubacar Diallo 80′). Unused substitutes:Andrew Rick; Nathan Nkanji, Marcello Mazzola, Luke Martelli, Anthony Ramirez. 1st – 2, U II – 8, Acad – 10.

Starters’ ages

Thompson Castillo Rojas LeGuennec Sorenson Perez
21.0 20.7 19.4 23.3 20.4 17.1
Westfield Olney Vazquez Stojanovic Pierre
17.5 16.5 17.3 22.3 18.2

Atlanta 2 Lineup: (4-3-3, L-R):

Starters: Vicente Reyes;Nelson Orji (David Mejia 61′), Efrain Morales, Remi Okunlola, Erik Centeno; Kofi Twumasi, Toni Tiente, Alan Carleton (Matthew DeJianne 89′); Nick Firmino, Luke Brennan, Karim Tmimi (Jackson Conway 61′).

Unused substitutes: Sebastian Guerra; , , Shawn Lanza, , Cooper Sanchez, Rocket Ritarita.


U II       57th minute       C. J. Olney (Nelson Pierre, Stefan Stojanovic)


U II       Yellow        30th minute        Nelson Pierre (foul)

U II       Yellow        54th minute        Anton Sorenson (delay)

U II       Yellow        56th minute        David Vazquez (foul)

A 2        Yellow        86th minute        Toni Tiente (foul)

U II Statistic A 2 U II Statistic A 2
36.8 Possession % 63.2 1 Offsides 3
12 Shots 7 54 Duels won 54
5 Shots on goal 3 12 Tackles  won 8
3 Blocked shots 1 3 Saves 4
311 Total Passes 539 7 Clearances 8
70.4 Pass Accuracy % 84.6 15 Fouls 17
2 Corners 3 3 Yellow Cards 1
9 Crosses 5 0 Red Cards 0

Ref: Laura Rodriguez, AR1: Robert Cordrey, AR2: Sharon Gingrich, 4TH: Justin Saporito.


  1. Andy Muenz says:

    Do the Union get any compensation for Darboe or just Minnesota? If not, why would they bring players into the academy when other teams hold their rights? (Or did Minnesota compensate the Union upfront when Darboe enrolled there?)

    • Tim Jones says:

      Andy, I do not know whether they got anything.
      A highly placed organization source with knowledge of the situation last summer told me they were trying to sign him.
      He joined the union’s academy when Minnesota United shut their Academy down completely. AT the time there were reports that they were re-thinking the entire academy concept as it related to the realities of existence in Minnesota.
      They have restarted their academy and it participates in MLS NEXT.
      There was a report in January that Minnesota was re-asserting its homegrown rights to the player, as part of the rumor that he was going overseas to Finland. Since they just sold them to LA FC its seems they succeeded.

  2. So what is next for the graduated seniors?

  3. el Pachyderm says:

    Look I get it. This is the Philosophy and as a guy who argued for a Vision, Philosophy and Plan for 3 or 4 years….It is hard to look the ‘Gift Horse in the Mouth’
    But 36% possession with 70% successful passing completion seems an awfully boring way to play the game. What’s fun about that?
    What’s fun? Congratulations. You run better then the other team.

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