MLS NEXT Pro Match Report / Philadelphia Union II

Match report: New York City FC II 1-3 Philadelphia Union II

Photo Tej Patel

After a tap-preempting 20-minute weather delay, Philadelphia Union II’s attacking midfielder Jeremy Rafanello scored a brace in the first 18 minutes to send the boys in blue towards a 3-1 victory over New York City FC II at Belson Stadium in Queens.

Rafanello’s first shot fell perfectly into the defense from a corner kick clearance from the near post in the ninth minute and he struck an unmarked, calm, powerful shot home. His second came on a penalty kick in the 18th after center-back Rio Hope-Gund had pulled down a breaking-away Nelson Pierre in the box from behind.

New York’s leading scorer Matt Myers finished off a series of excellent passes inside the top center of the box in the 55th minute to introduce a real threat to Union II’s three points.

But in the 84th substitute striker Luciano Sanchez, on for Pierre, took a feed from Boubacar Diallo just over midfield with New York’s defenders caught forward, dribbled at speed into the box, juked the lone marker, and nutmeged keeper Alexander Yagudayev for the clincher.

The two-game win streak leapfrogs the baby pigeons in the standings and made it a six-point week.

In advance

NYC FC II had begun in seventh place, two points ahead of Union II in eighth.

Francis Westfield started for Philly, but Union II’s bench was three players short: José Riasco, Gino Portella, and Anton Sorenson.

Rafanello had been made available since he did not go to Atlanta with the first team for its 2-0 loss. But he was the only “extra” first-teamer. With Damian Lowe away at the Gold Cup (where their 5-0 win over St. Kitts & Nevis advanced Jamaica to face the winner of Group D in Cincinnati next Sunday), Brandan Craig backed-up Jakob Glesnes and Jack Elliott. Quinn Sullivan and Chris Donovan were the striker reserves in Atlanta behind Mikael Uhre and Julián Carranza.

New York City’s first team had played 24 hours earlier winning 1-0 Saturday night in Montreal. NYC FC II could have had greater flexibility in gaining first-team reinforcements than Union II, since an early morning plane flight would have been possible. But their roster philosophy seems to differ from the Union’s.

First half

After the delay, Union II came out on the front foot immediately, forcing an excellent save from NYC FC II’s 16-year-old  keeper Yagudayev in the third minute. Then came Rafanello’s 10-minute brace.

NYC FC II had lost three consecutive matches, so an alternative defensive back line had started. While they were discovering how both to play together and connect to their experienced, veteran front six, Union II scored twice. Once the New Yorkers gelled, they controlled. After Union II took the game’s first seven shots, the halftime totals were only 9-6 in favor of Philly. The only NY shot on target had come in the 37th minute.

Second half

At halftime, New York coach Matt Pilkington made one change. He removed right-wing Ronald Arévalo and brought on 25-year-old veteran John Denis. All six of his attacking and midfield players were now full-grown adults, as were his following two substitutes. His teenagers came on only in the 89th.

They were matched against Union II’s narrow diamond with its defensive mid (19.4 years-old) and its shuttling mids (17.4 and 16.5) all being teenagers. Union II’s first two subs in the 64th minute were teenagers for teenagers, Alex Perez in the midfield for C. J. Olney and Sanchez for Pierre at striker.

To New York’s credit, its youth championship veterans did not lose their focused confidence until much later than Orlando City B had last Wednesday. Only in stoppage time did frustrated skirmishing break out, seven or eight minutes after Sanchez had restored Union II’s two-goal margin. Orlando seemed to lose it last Wednesday as soon as Union II scored.

Next Match

Union II play again on ten days’ rest, next Wednesday, July 12 in York, Ontario against Toronto FC II at 7 p.m.

Three Points
  1. Man of the match: Conventionally, Rafanello was named it for his brace. Coach Marlon LeBlanc again tipped his cap to emerging defensive center mid Carlos Rojas with an 89th-minute curtain call. And without Andrew Rick’s excellence plugging leaks, the Union’s dyke surely would have burst.
  2. Luciano Sanchez is making a post-graduation push for further consideration by the technical staff. He has scored three goals since June began. He is showing better and better as an MLS Next Pro two-way striker.
  3. Roster mysteries continue: For a match in which Coach LeBlanc had only four field players on his bench, Union II professionals José Riasco and Gino Portella did not even dress, nor did first-team homegrown loanee, Anton Sorenson.

Union II lineup (4-1-2-1-2, L-R):

Starters: Andrew Rick, Juan Castillo, Hugo Le Guennec, Daniel Kreuger, Francis Westfield, Carlos Rojas (Nathan Nkanji 89′), C. J. Olney (Alex Perez 64′), David Vazquez, Jeremy Rafanello (Boubacar Diallo 75′), Stefan Stojanovic, Nelson Pierre (Luciano Sanchez 64′). Unused substitute: Brooks Thompson. 1st – 2, U II – 8, Acad – 6.

Starters’ ages

Rick Castillo LeGuennec Kreuger Westfield Rojas
17.4 20.7 23.4 17.5 17.6 19.4
Olney Vazquez Rafanello Stojanovic Pierre
16.5 17.4 23.2 22.3 18.3

NYC FC Lineup (4-3-3, L-R): Starters: Alexander Yagudayev, Christian McFarlane (Stevo Bednarsky 75′), Alexander Hauschild, Rio Hope-Gund, Andrew Baiera (Francesco DiPonzio 89′), Jack Beer (Maximo Carrizo 89′), Samuel Owusu, Piero Elias (Julian Gomez 89′), Jonathan Jimenez, Matt Myers, Ronald Arévalo (John Denis HT). Unused substitutes: Kofi Hope-Gund, Brian Flores, Klevis Haxhari, Jonathan Shore.


Union II         9th minute       Jeremy Rafanello

Union II       18th minute       Jeremy Rafanello (PK)

NYC II          55th minute       Matt Myers (Jack Beer)

Union II       84th minute       Luciano Sanchez (Boubacar Diallo)

Yellow Cards

NYC II         17th minute       Rio Hope-Gund (foul)

Union II      26th minute      David Vazquez (foul)

NYC II         49th minute       Christian McFarlane (foul)

Union II       66th minute       Jeremy Rafanello (time-wasting)

Union II       70th minute       Francis Westfield (foul)

Union II       78th minute       Hugo Le Guennec (foul)

NYC Statistic U II NYC Statistic U II
69.6 Possession % 30.4 1 Offsides 3
14 Shots 17 54 Duels Won 40
6 Shots on Goal 8 7 Tackles Won 9
4 Blocked Shots 1 5 Saves 5
588 Total Passes 251 10 Clearances 18
82.8 Pass Accuracy % 61 10 Fouls 16
8 Corners 4 2 Yellow Cards 4
14 Crosses 9 0 Red Cards 0

Ref: Marie Durr, AR1: Justen Lopez, AR2: Douglas Clayton, 4th: Ernie Constantine.

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