MLS NEXT Pro Match Report / Philadelphia Union II

Match report: Philadelphia Union II 2-1 Huntsville City FC

Photo courtesy Philadelphia Union II Communications

In match they had to win in regulation to maintain a realistic hope of making the playoffs, Philadelphia Union II won 2-1 Sunday evening at Subaru Park.

On virtually the stroke of halftime, Union II right center back Neil Pierre headed home Union II’s first goal on a corner kick served by attacking mid Jeremy Rafanello.

Then after the teams exchanged red cards in the 61st and 68th minutes, striker Stefan Stojanovic finished a close-in cross from midfielder Quinn Sullivan for the game winner.

Huntsville striker Azaad Liadi put home a penalty kick in the fourth minute of stoppage time to end Union II’s hope of a clean sheet against the team that had beaten them 5-2 a few weeks ago in Alabama.

The win moves Union II into the playoff picture in 7th place on 39 points going into Decision Day next Sunday the 24th, when all eastern conference matches will begin simultaneously at 2 pm eastern.

In advance

The top seven teams in the conference make the playoffs. Mathematically, Chicago Fire II, New York City FC II, Huntsville, and Atlanta United 2 were Union II’s competition for the two remaining undecided playoff spots. Everyone else had either clinched or been eliminated.

NYC II and Chicago II played this past Friday. Pending Sunday’s results, New York took seventh place on 38 points but were passed yesterday by Philadelphia. Chicago remained in sixth on 41.

Before the match Huntsville had dropped below the playoff line to eighth place on 37 points and are now ninth, Union II having vaulted them and NYC FC II.

Atlanta has been eliminated having failed to beat Miami II in regulation Sunday night.

Union II’s first team tied Cincinnati 2-2 the night before at home so reinforcements were easily made available. Apparently, the technical staff likes what playoff pressure diagnoses about young players. C.J. Olney, David Vazquez, and Neil Pierre remain under diagnosis, so meaningful effort was made to put them into that diagnostic crucible. Striker Chris Donovan, attacking mid Jeremy Rafanello, midfielder Quinn Sullivan, and center back Olwethu Makhanya all started.

Attacking mid David Vazquez was back from international duty, but center back Hugo Le Guennec was suspended.

Huntsville’s first team, Nashville, did not play this past weekend, so extra reinforcements could easily have traveled to greater Philadelphia. But so far such interchange has not played as prominent a part of Nashville’s player development philosophy as it does in Philadelphia’s.

First half

Initially, both teams played cautiously given the stakes. Union II quickly upped the intensity, but Huntsville never seemed to.

The boys from Alabama defended with nine men back when Union II had possession, and did little to contest Philadelphia’s passing in the middle third of the field. Union II’s possession statistic for the match is almost 50%, a level rarely approached this season.

Union II direct service to the central channel found  Donovan’s head for flick-ons with great frequency. Huntsville did not contest him well in the air.

In the 32nd on an tackle in the box while level with his defender, Donovan drew a penalty kick, but Rafanello banged his shot off the crossbar for a miss.

Then as regulation changed into first-half stoppage time, Rafanello served his corner kick to Neil Pierre’s head for the lead.

Huntsville seemed on their heels for most of the half. The urgency of their situation was not showing in their play.

Second half

David Vazquez replaced Donovan at halftime. His initial burst of energy and creativity compensated for the first team’s fourth striker’s departure.

Then in the 61st minute C. J. Olney took down his marker in a chase to the end line of Union II’s left attacking channel. He was judged to have been violent and an immediate red card was shown. It looked to be a long finish to a 1-0 match until the 68th when Huntsville’s Joshua Drack earned his second yellow and evened the match’s numbers.

Then in the 73rd Rafanello led Sullivan behind his mark towards the right side of the area and the tireless midfielder placed a perfect cross inside the six where Stefanovic finished the match winner.

Head coach Marlon LeBLanc began to substitute as time wound down, and Huntsville began to get some semi-serious chances. Halfway through stoppage time right back Francis Westfield gave Huntsville a penalty kick ending the attempt at a clean sheet.

Next Game

For the final match of the regular season, Union II will travel away to New York Red Bull II.

Five Points
  1. The brothers Pierre: The first player to grab, hug and lift Neil Pierre after his goal was his older and shorter brother Nelson.
  2. Anton Sorenson may be rehabilitating himself as a Union II left back. He has started the last two matches and played with many fewer mistakes than earlier in the season. In both matches Juan Castillo has proven healthy coming off the bench, so the change in status has not been medical in nature.
  3. Olwethu Makhanya and the younger Pierre brother distributed the ball more effectively from the beginning of the match. They are not ready to replace Elliott, Glesnes, and Lowe. But the combination has promise for the future.
  4. WSFS Sportsplex 1: Last Thursday’s practice occurred on the new, youth-sized grass field located closest to Subaru Park for its smaller sided exercises and then moved to the new competition field for 11 v 11 scrimmaging. The small field is 60 yards wide. The competition field’s size mirrors Subaru Park, 120 x 75. Lights have now been installed, and fences and missed-shot containment nets are in process.
  5. WSFS Sportsplex 2: If foundations for the fieldhouse and the academy’s classrooms are completed before the ground freezes, construction can proceed throughout the winter and the project will remain on schedule.

Union lineup (4-1-2-1-2, L-R, substitutes italicized)

Starters: Andrew Rick; Anton Sorenson (Juan Castillo 85‘), Olwethu Makhanya, Neil Pierre, Francis Westfield; Carlos Rojas; C. J. Olney, Quinn Sullivan; Jeremy Rafanello (Sal Olivas, 77′); Chris Donovan (David Vazquez HT), Stefan Stojanovic (Kyle Tucker 77′).

Unused substitutes: Johnny Evans;  Nelson Pierre, Boubacar Diallo, Alec Perez, Daniel Kreuger.

1st – 6, U II – 8, Acad – 6. Suspended: Hugo Le Guennec. Unknown: Gino Portella. Loaned out: Jose Riasco, Brooks Thompson.

Starters’s ages average = 19.6

Rick Sorenson Makhanya N. Pierre Westfield Rojas
17.6 20.6 19.4 15.9 17.8 19.6
Olney Sullivan Rafanello Donovan Stojanovic
16.7 19.5 23.4 23.1 22.5

Finishers’ ages average = 19.0

Rick Castillo Makhanya N. Pierre Westfield Rojas
17.6 21.0 19.4 15.9 17.8 19.6
Tucker Vazquez Sullivan Olivas
24.1 17.6 19.5 17.2

Huntsville lineup (4-5-1, L-R, substitutes italicized)

Starters: Ben Martino; Joey Skinner,  Cyrus Rad (Adem Sipic 82′), Sean Suber, Chris N’sa; Jonathan Bolanos (Ollie Wright 74′), Christopher Pearson (Nebiyou Perry 54′), Joey DeZart; Josh Drack, Kemy Amiche (Shaun Joash 74′); Azaad Liadi.

 Unused substitutes: John Berner; Ahmed Longmire, Perrin Barnes, Isaiah Jones, Fernando Ciceron.


Union II       45th minute        Neil Pierre (Jeremy Rafanello)

Union II       73rd minute        Stefan Stojanovic (Quinn Sullivan)

Huntsville    90+4 minute      Azaad Liadi (penalty kick)

Yellow Cards

Union II.      23rd minute.      Carlos Rojas (foul)

Huntsville    32nd minute       Joshua Drack (foul)

Union II        36th minute        Neil Pierre (foul)

Union II        56th minute        Anton Sorenson (foul)

Union II        76th minute         David Vazquez (delay)

Union II        88th minute        Andrew Rick (delay)

Red Cards

Union II        61st minute       C. J. Olney (violent conduct)

Huntsville    68th minute      Joshua Drack (second yellow)

U II Statistic H U II Statistic H
48.2 Possession % 51.8 1 Offsides 3
19 Shots 6 54 Duels won 48
8 Shots on goal 2 13 Tackles  won 11
3 Blocked shots 3 1 Saves 6
375 Total Passes 397 12 Clearances 14
73.3 Pass Accuracy % 76.3 16 Fouls 12
4 Corners 1 5 Yellow Cards 1
11 Crosses 15 1 Red Cards 1

Ref: Jeremy Scheer, AR1, Tom Felice, AR2, Amilcar Sicaju, 4th, Nick Karnovsky.

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