Analysis / Philadelphia Union II

Union II midseason roster analysis: Academy prospects

Photo courtesy Philadelphia Union II communications

The second part of our mid-season Union II roster analysis discusses the six 2023-24 Academy players receiving 2023 Union II developmental minutes, who are probably still be under evaluation as possible professional signings. The organization’s business model seeks to discover both young players who can be sold to Europe, either to the developmental leagues there or to the big six directly, and North American professionals.

Alphabetically, the six are center back Daniel Kreuger, attacking midfielder C. J. Olney, defensive midfielder Alex Perez, goalkeeper Andrew Rick, attacking midfielder David Vazquez, and right back Francis Westfield.

Probable Uncertain Less Likely
Francis Westfield Andrew Rick Daniel Kreuger
C. J. Olney Alex Perez
David Vazquez

None of these players are yet legal adults, so parents must participate in legal commitments. The decision to turn professional is a major one. It excludes  the possibility of paying for college with an athletic scholarship.

It enables the possibility of a player paying tuition with his professional earnings. And Dr. Nooha Ahmed-Lee, the head of YSC Academy, has pioneered guiding her former students to acquire knowledge and credentials for life after soccer through virtual participation in post-secondary education, academic and otherwise.

We do not invade the privacy of individual family decisions in our discussions. We guess only whether the club seems likely to make an offer.

As first-team reserve defender Matt Real’s history with the organization illustrates, an initial contract offer can not only be as a homegrown first-team player, but also as a second-team one.


Francis Westfield has been playing for Philadelphia Union II since July of the 2021 season when he was 15.6 years old. That year Union II played a not-in-a-league schedule for which no public records survive.

From the data we informally gleaned during the blackout, Westfield first sat on the bench July 9, 2021 away to Richmond Kickers. Evidence suggests he dressed consistently after that, but there is no record that he appeared until October 10, when he started at right back away to Chicago recording an assist. He travelled to Cartagena, Colombia for the unfortunate youth tournament truncated by a middle-of-the-night hotel fire. before the team’s withdrawal, he had started the first match and dressed for the second. We have no record of further matches that season.

In 2022 in MLS NEXT Pro, he was Union II’s first choice right back. He also played in the midfield. He totaled 1,414 minutes, second on the ’22 team. He made 16 starts and four substitute appearances in the season’s 24 games. He played the full match at right back in the 1-0 playoff loss to Toronto FC II.

Unsurprisingly, he began 2023 as the first choice right back. More recently he has become half of the first-choice pair of defensive central midfielders along with fellow academy rising senior Alex Perez. In 13 games he leads the team with 954 minutes, from eleven starts and one substitute appearance. He has served a red card suspension.

He exhibits defensive positional diversity having played right back, right center back, and defensive central midfielder. Center back seemed an stopgap assignment, Westfield having been trusted as the best available option in an emergency.

The history above indicates the organization has had full opportunity to evaluate him. In addition to two and a half seasons playing with adult professionals, he practiced with the first team during the first Florida phase of 2023 preseason when others were away.

He has proven himself to be a strong MLS Next Pro right back. He is proving himself an effective MLSNP defensive central midfielder. especially when implementing the Union’s pressing system playing alongside and behind three other Union Academy-trained players (see the four players next to Anton Sorenson in the front row of our feature photo).

It seems a slam dunk that Westfield be offered a second-team contract when he turns 18 December 5th. Such would give him the same opportunity granted Matt Real back in January of 2017. Westfield has the work ethic and mentality continuously to improve himself as Real has done.

An immediate first-team contract is chancier. He does not seem a candidate for sale to major overseas’ leagues as a right back. His mentality might be adequate, but his athleticism and technical skill may not. He is more credible as a future MLS player.

If Olivier Mbaizo does not return, the chance of a first-team offer to Westfield increases. Were the Cameroonian to stay for 2024, his return would eliminate the need to fill his spot. Similarly, developments with Kai Wagner and Union II starting left back Juan Castillo would influence Westfield’s opportunities.

If the Union let Westfield escape, another professional organization would realize the return on Keystone Sports’ investment. That indicates some type of offer is likely.

Sixteen-and-a-half-year-old C. J. Olney is the other player who seems probable for a future professional contract, once he turns 18.

He is a full year younger than Westfield, hence a full year of development behind him. His path has been similar. The first professional glimpses of him occurred when he was 15, and repeated full 90s of playing time have also occurred at 16.

Olney plays as an attacking midfielder in Union II’s empty bucket with three 2023 goals, three assists, 15 shots, and 6 shots on target. He has 692 minutes from eight starts. He has not appeared as a sub. With a 2006 birth year, he is eligible to play for the academy U17s and has done so in their major tournaments reducing his starts for Union II.

In two ways he illustrates the organization’s goal that the whole be greater than the sum of its parts. He is part of the teenage midfield that applies its defensive pressing cues with the precisely coordinated teamwork that confounds strong opponents. And most recently, his perfect read of fellow Academy product Nelson Pierre’s delivered cross secured the match winner in the team’s first clean sheet of the season. Playing together in the Academy creates successes.

Olney is a year and a half away from his 18th birthday when a professional offer might be made.


Three 17-year-olds join 16-year-old Olney as not having accumulated the same quantity of developmental minutes as Westfield. They seem less certain of pro offers.

Most prominent is goalkeeper Andrew Rick. He is taller and longer this year as compared to last. As a 2006 birthyear he keeps goal for the U17s in their tournaments. At the same time he is one the three keepers backing up Andre Blake and Joe Bendik with the pros, the other two being Holden Trent and Brooks Thompson. In the practices Rick serves as Union II’s number one, with Trent and Thompson being the first team’s numbers three and four.

Rick has started five of 2023’s 13 matches totaling 450 minutes. He kept against the penalty kick shootout with Crown Legacy that the North Carolinians won.

Future decisions concerning Joe Bendik will affect Trent, Thompson, and Rick.

Attacking midfielder David Vazquez is the better known of the remaining two uncertainties because he has been part of the USYNT U17s this season as they qualified in Guatemala for the U17 World Cup to come in Peru in the fall. As are Rick and Olney, Vazquez is part of the Union’s U17 tournament team.

For Union II he has eight starts and a substitute’s appearance totaling 599 minutes. Only three of the eight have been 86 or 90 minutes.

Vazquez is integral to the previously highlighted teenage midfield. Unless other organizations are exhibiting interest, his limited exposure makes taking a decision on a contract offer premature.

The fourth member of the teenage midfield is the third youngster who may or may not be in the running for a future professional contract, 17.1 year-old defensive center midfielder Alex Perez. Like Olney and Vazquez he dressed once for Union II last season but unlike them he did not play.

Perez’s partnership with Westfield at defensive center mid has transformed Union II’s defensive pressure towards success. And Westfield and Perez playing behind Olney and Vazquez has augmented the team’s attack. The emergent teenage midfield provides an alternative to long, direct service to the strikers by the backs, an alternative that seemed fundamental to the game plan that clean-sheeted Atlanta. To an extent it mirrors the same alternative that can be available to the first team.

Perez’s first start came only four games ago on May 24 at Crown Legacy.  Previously he had dressed only three times and subbed on twice for a total of 16 minutes. Now he has 311. The Atlanta clean sheet was the first time he came close to finishing a full 90 minutes with 89.

Four starts and 311 minutes is too small a sample to inform judgments whether Perez is a candidate for a future professional contract.

Less Likely

Seventeen-and-four-tenths-year-old center back Daniel Kreuger seems trusted as a competent MLS NEXT Pro central defensive substitute and fill-in. He has received no sequence of consecutive starts when the organization has had anyone else available to do so. But when called upon he has played intelligently and competently. There have been no glaring disasters, but he has not been a game changer.

As a center back his future with the organization will be influenced by developments concerning first teamers Damion Lowe and Brandan Craig. And he will be directly affected by decisions about second teamers Gino Portella, Hugo Le Guennec, Carlos Rojas and Nathan Nkanji whom we will discuss next week.

Probably an as yet unidentified NCAA side will recruit a excellent center back prospect.


  1. Do any of these players seem like they might have strong first team impacts eventually?

    • Andy Muenz says:

      It’s obviously too early to say for sure since he’s only 16.5, but I think C.J. Olney has potential, although that could end up being like Paxton where he gets some first team time before being sold before he becomes a real contributor.

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