MLS NEXT Pro Match Report / Philadelphia Union II

Match report: Philadelphia Union II 2 – 1 New York Red Bull II

Photo courtesy Philadelphia Union II communications

After taking the lead in the match’s fourth minute on a classic Union fast-break goal by Stefan Stojanovic from Chris Donovan, Luciano Sanchez erased New York Red Bulls II’s 84th-minute penalty kick equalizer on an excellent feed from C. J. Olney for the 2-1 victory.

Perhaps as sweet is that Union II has now beaten Red Bull II two straight this season. They will go for the sweep in the last match of the regular season in New Jersey, Decision Day, on Sunday, September 24.

In advance

Union II beat Red Bull II on the road on May 7, 2-1. Francis Westfield was eligible because he is an academy player, not an MLS NEXT Pro professional. Had he been the latter, he would have been ineligible because of his red card during the May match.

Pregame, NY Red Bull II were in fourth place, six points ahead of the eighth-place Union II in the standings. Each side’s first team had played the previous night. The Union played in Chester, so extra first-teamers were available. The extra addition was Chris Donovan who had scored the first team match-winner against NYC FC the night before.

NY Red Bull had played away to Real Salt Lake. Red Bull II played with only five field players on its bench.

First half

Union II scored on its first shot of the match. A long clearance from deep in their penalty box found C. J. Olney just short of midfield in the left channel. Olney then found Donovan slightly outside and level with the box—delivering perfectly to Stojanovic at the top of the area, unmarked and able to calmly choose either lower corner. Red Bull II goalkeeper A. J. Marcucci made no attempt on the strike that was firmly slotted to the back of the left corner on the ground.

The north Jerseyites woke up after about the first ten minutes and dominated possession with short and medium-range passing. In the early passes of the half, they passed around Union II’s attempts to press them in the midfield. Philadelphia’s typical activity was to clear the ball long, looking for another break, but most such attacks petered out around the top of the penalty area.

New York’s best chance of the half came in the 19th minute when goalkeeper Andrew Rick missed collecting a service and the consequent head ball bounced off the far post.  Their second-best chance came in the 40th minute when an early cross from the right channel passed through Rick’s box without anyone able to close on it.

The score at halftime was 1-0.

Second half

Neither coach made any changes at halftime.

Philly goalkeeper Rick was forced to make real saves after five or six minutes. Union II’s counter-pressing seemed a step slower as time passed. And in the 58th minute, Red Bull II coach Ibrahim Sekagya brought on his first pair of fresh legs. In the 69th, he brought on two more pairs of such legs. New York was not putting shots on frame or providing Rick with easy saves.

Union II head coach Marlon LeBlanc made his first substitutions in the 61st minute, bringing on Nelson Pierre for Stojanovic up front, and Kyle Tucker for Jermey Rafanello in the midfield. Tucker seemed more of a second defensive central midfielder next to Carlos Rojas, in a move that echoed the previous two matches in which Rojas had begun play as a single six.

In the 77th, LeBlanc brought on Luciano Sanchez for Donovan and Boubacar Diallo for fellow midfielder David Vazquez. A minute later, a New York thrust that was initially claiming a Union II handball in the area culminated in a foul by Daniel Kreuger and a penalty kick. Ibrahim Kasule sent Rick the wrong way to tie the score in the 80th minute.

Three minutes later, Sanchez scored his fourth goal of the season on an assist from Olney.

No one-goal lead is ever comfortable. The referee whistled for time after four minutes of stoppage and the professional development side celebrated its nail-biter.

The win boosted Union II to sixth and dropped Red Bull II to fifth behind Orlando City B on the first tiebreaker, number of wins.

Next Match

Union II next play Monday, July 24 at Columbus Crew 2. The match is scheduled for Apple TV on MLS season pass. The respective first teams will have begun their group stage play in the Leagues Cup tournament. Philadelphia plays at home on the 22nd and the 26th, so extra first-team reinforcement would require forethought and travel. Columbus plays the night before on the 23rd in Ohio, so reinforcement would be easy.

Three points
  1. Francis Westfield did not have to miss the match with the team against whom he collected a red card because he is not a Union II professional. His play was essential to his team’s success. He dominated his mark in the air, seeming to make a case that he move up the depth charts should Olivier Mbaizo’s family-related trade request come to fruition.
  2. Luciano Sanchez continues to score. His cruise control speed again was noticeably faster than Nelson Pierre’s. Since June 4, he has scored four times—twice in June and twice in July. He’s begun putting his shots on target in the summer, with the expected logical consequences.
  3. Jose Riasco and Gino Portella: Riasco has not dressed since he played 33 minutes on June 18, four consecutive matches. He did not appear to be present at the one practice that was observed recently. Portella has not dressed since that date either and was not seen at the aforementioned observed practice.
  4. Bonus points: Carlos Rojas played as a single six in the manner of the first team’s Jose Martinez for the first sixty minutes of the match. His sense of timing for offensive thrusts and his reading of when to cover for aggressive moves by his center backs seemed excellent. Hugo Le Guennec was rock solid defensively.

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

Starters: Andrew Rick; Juan Castillo, Hugo Le Guennec, Daniel Kreuger, Francis Westfield; Carlos Rojas; ; C. J. Olney (Anton Sorenson 90+1′), David Vazquez (Boubacar Diallo 77′); Jeremy Rafanello (Kyle Tucker 62′), Stefan Stojanovic (Nelson Pierre 62′), Chris Donovan (Luciano Sanchez 77′).

Unused substitutes: Brooks Thompson; Nathan Nkanji, Alex Perez.

1st – 4, U II – 9, Acad – 6.

Unknown: Gino Portella, Jose Riasco.

Starters’ ages


Castillo LeGuennec Kreuger Westfield Rojas
17.5 20.8 23.4 17.5 17.6


Olney Vazquez Rafanello Stojanovic Donovan
16.6 17.4 23.2 22.4


Red Bull lineup ( 4-2-3-1, L-R):

Starters: A. J. Marcucci; Arian Recinos, Jayden Reid, Matt Nocita, Copeland Berkley (Dija 69′); Aiden Jarvis (Bento Estrela 59′),  Dylan Sullivan (Henry Wise 87′); Ricardo Gorday (Eric Ruiz 69′), Ibrahim Kasule, O’Vonte Mullings; Frank Ssebufu.

Unused substitutes: Alan Rutkowski; Amos Shapiro-Thompson.


Union II           4th minute       Stefan Stojanovic (Chris Donovan)

Red Bull II     80th minute       Ibrahim Kasule (PK)

Union II         84th minute        Luciano Sanchez (C. J. Olney)

Yellow cards

Union II        44th minute       Jeremy Rafanello (foul)

Red Bull II    45th minute      Dylan Sullivan



Statistic RB II U II Statistic RB II
38.6 Possession % 61.4 5 Offsides



Shots 22 71 Duels won 67
4 Shots on goal 7 15 Tackles won



Blocked shots 4 6 Saves 2
291 Total Passes 454 22 Clearances



Pass Accuracy % 68.5 16 Fouls 12
1 Corners 6 1 Yellow Cards



Crosses 19 0 Red Cards




Ref: Elvis Osmanovic, AR1: Gjovalin Bori, AR2: Andrew charron, 4th: Stephen Foster.


  1. Any idea what the story is with Riasco?

    • Tim Jones says:

      None. Sorry.
      Although, if we step off the deep end into rankest speculation, Carlos Rojas is on loan from the exact same Venezuelan club from which Riasco came to the Union. I have no idea whatsoever whether that is anything more than a coincidence.
      Rojas has impressed me, and has reminded me of a Club Saprissa player who was on loan to Bethlehem Steel FC as a left back some years ago. the Union organization tried to buy him, I think I remember, but Saprissa wanted him back.
      It has occurred to me that La Guaira may want Rojas back.
      As I say, no idea whether there is any possible connection.

      • A buddy of mine with ties to Venezuelan soccer’s upper management… when Union 2 signed Riasco, told me he would not make it in North America because he’d get ‘homesick’.
        Hence the hometown buddy, TRY and motivate Riasco…… again?

        Alot invested in that kid….

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