MLS NEXT Pro Match Report / Philadelphia Union II

Match report: New York Red Bull II 1 – 3 Philadelphia Union II

Photo published on Philadelphia Union II’s official Twitter account; used by their courtesy 

On the strength of a stoppage time goal by Hugo Le Guennec at the end of the first half, as well as a stoppage time goal from David Vazquez at the end of the second half, Philadelphia Union II won 3-1 on Sunday, sweeping the season series from New York Red Bull II and securing seventh place in the Eastern conference to qualify for MLS NEXT Pro’s 2023 playoffs.

Attacking midfielder Jeremy Rafanello scored a free kick past a defensive wall improperly positioned to protect the near post, on a bounce that skipped past the hand of diving Red Bull II goalkeeper Alan Rutkowski. Wet artificial turf may well have affected its pace and trajectory.

Then in the first minute of first-half stoppage, a Red Bull II clearance fell directly to Union II right center back Hugo Le Guennec who, from the left, lasered a beam to the near post’s upper 90 for a 2-0 halftime lead. It was the former Rutgers captain’s first score of the season.

After New York substitute striker Julian Hall tapped in a cross from close range in the 73rd minute and Red Bull began to dominate energy drink soccer for the last quarter hour on the basis of their substitutes’ fresh legs, Midfielder David Vazquez clinched the match and the playoffs in the second minute of second half stoppage off a cross from the endline by substitute Juan Castillo, who had been playing left midfield.

In advance

Post-tropical cyclone Ophelia was forecast to provide 20-mph winds and heavy rain with temperatures in the low 60s for the match. The rain continued throughout, while the wind seemed less strong than forecast – although it was there. MSU Soccer Park’s turf was clearly wet causing more than one slip and fall.

Realistically, Union II’s playoff situation required a regulation win away to their bitterest rival. Arithmetically, there were other possibilities to qualify without winning, but they were unlikely and complex, and would have required long, convoluted explanations including picayune understandings of the league’s tiebreakers.

The Union first team had played Saturday night in Chester against LAFC. Union II probably had left for north Jersey Saturday afternoon, but reinforcements must have travelled early Sunday morning in time for the 2:00 pm tap. Constraints were that the first team plays the following Wednesday the 23rd and that the race for home field advantage within playoff seeding is extremely tight. All three of striker Chris Donovan, attacking midfielder Jeremy Rafanello, and left center back Olwethu Makhanya had dressed against LAFC and Donovan had actually played. They joined usual loan-downs left back Anton Sorenson who started – playing 90 -and striker Nelson Pierre, who began on the bench.

Red Bull II were tied with third place Columbus 2 on points but lay below them in the table on fewer wins in regulation. Arithmetically, they had already clinched fourth place.

C. J. Olney was suspended for his red card against Huntsville in the previous match. Carlos Rojas was injured. Neil Pierre’s whereabouts were unknown.

First half

From tap-off the match epitomized energy drink soccer. Each team counter pressed high up the pitch and within 90 seconds the match was a full-blown end-to-end one. Philadelphia’s press was more effective. In the first half they outshot New York 9 to 4 and New York accumulated nearly twice as many clearances as Philly. Neither pass completion percentage broke 60%. Possession was even at 50%.

Two unassisted long range goals were the difference.

Second half

The second half was more of the same for the first 15 minutes with neither team substituting at the half.

In the 64th Nelson Pierre came on for Chris Donovan whose defensive pressure had contributed to Union II’s success, even though the Red Bull back line contested his head flicks and tracked his runs successfully. His substitute, Nelson Pierre, does not cruise over ground at the same pace when defending and the effects were noticeable.

As Union II coach Marlon LeBlanc brought on more subs to counter increasing tiredness, the match ‘s balance began to favor New York (see stats below). By the end of the half the Boys in Cream and Light blue were hanging on for dear life, until Castillo broke free to the left and line and found Vazquez for a stiff dose of relaxing nerve tonic.

Next match

The league season is over, but Union II will play in the first round of the playoffs. This year MLS Next Pro allows higher seeded playoff qualifiers to choose their opponents from the lower seeded possibilities. Unofficially we understand those choices may become known Tuesday.

Union II will probably be chosen  by 2nd seeded New England Revolution II since New England swept the season series beating them three times, 5-1 in Foxboro in April, 4-3 in Chester in May, and most recently 3-0 at the end of August in Chester. Bruce Arena’s resignation has changed Revolution II’s head coach. Rob Becarra, Director of Youth Development, has replaced Clint Peay who has himself replaced Arena with the first team.

Whatever the playoffs bring, Union II will continue practicing, certainly until Thanksgiving and probably through the first week of December. The top teenagers will most likely audition extensively with the first team. Union II’s professionals and remaining amateurs will almost certainly play ad hoc friendlies against local opposition. Given the on-going Sportsplex construction, specifically the rebuilding of the two regulation-sized practice fields, most if not all are likely to be away to reduce wear on the lone full-sized field’s grass.

Three points
  1. The fullest of marks should go to starting left midfielder Boubacar Diallo who played 85 minutes and starting single six defensive midfielder Kyle Tucker who played the full 90 and thus allowed his side to populate its attack with two strikers and an attacking midfielder.
  2. The New York announcer designated Hugo Le Guennec the man of the match both for his defensive successes and the match winner.
  3. A shout out to C.J. Olney’s parents’ who planned (and presumably followed through on their plan) to drive their son to Montclair, NJ to see the match, since he could not ride as passenger on the team bus under terms of his suspension.

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

Starters: Andrew Rick; Anton Sorenson, Olwethu Makhanya, Hugo Le Guennec, Francis Westfield; Kyle Tucker; David Vazquez, Boubacar Diallo (Alex Perez 85′); Jeremy Rafanello (Juan Castillo 79′); Chris Donovan (Nelson Pierre 64′), Stefan Stojanovic (Daniel Kreuger 85′).

Unused substitutes: Jonathan Evans; Nathan Nkanji, Gavin Wetzel, Edward Davis, Sal Olivas.

1st – 5, U II – 8, Acad – 7. Suspended: C. J. Olney. Injured: Carlos Rojas.  Loaned away: Brooks Thompson, Jose Riasco. No longer rostered: Gino Portella. Coach’s decision: Neil Pierre.

Starters’ average age = 21.0

Rick Sorenson Makhanya LeGuennec Westfield Tucker
17.6 20.7 19.4 23.6 17.8 24.2
Vazquez Diallo Rafanello Donovan Stojanovic
17.6 20.8 23.4 23.1 22.5

Finishers’ average age = 19.6

Rick Sorenson Makhanya LeGuennec Westfield Tucker
17.6 20.7 19.4 23.6 17.8 24.2
Perez Castillo Vazquez Pierre Kreuger
17.4 21.0 17.6 18.5 17.7

Red Bull II lineup (4-4-2, R-L, substitutes italicized)

Starters: Alan Rutkowski; O’vonte Mullings (Amos Shapiro-Thompson 87′), Davi Alexandre, Matt Nocita. Omar Valencia; Ibrahim Kasule (Rafael Mosquera 68′), Ronald Donkor (Bento Estrela 74′), Peter Stroud, Mohammed Sofo (Julian Hall 68′); Frank Ssebufu, Jorge Cabezas-Hurtado (Juan Mina 68′).

Unused substitutes: Aidan Stokes; Dylan Sullivan, Dija, Jayden Reid.


Union II      20th minute        Jeremy Rafanello (free kick)

Union II      45+1 minute        Hugo Le Guennec

NYRB II      73rd minute        Julian Hall (Juan Mina)

Union II     90+2 minute       David Vazquez (Juan Castillo)

Yellow Cards

NYRB II      49th minute      Davi Alexandre (foul)

NYRB II      90+2 minute     Rafael Mosquera (foul)

RBII Statistic UII RBII Statistic UII
60.9 Possession % 39.1 1 Offsides 1
7 Shots 17 62 Duels won 57
3 Shots on goal 6 14 Tackles  won 15
1 Blocked shots 6 3 Saves 2
393 Total Passes 252 20 Clearances 25
68.2 Pass Accuracy % 53.6 20 Fouls 16
5 Corners 5 2 Yellow Cards 0
20 Crosses 11 0 Red Cards 0

Ref: Eric Tattersall, AR1: Jeremy Smith, AR2: Nicholas Seymour, 4th: Ernie Constantine.


  1. Has Sorensen been starting more lately? Any idea what that might mean if so?

    • Yes, he has.
      Not sure what it means. Two ideas, but absolutely no way to determine whether any part of either holds water.
      first one is that Juan Castillo was brought in to provide competition against Sorenson and has forced him to improve. He has, judging by his play in the last few matches when he has started. A dimension of the competition is salary cost. One player may be less expensive to sign for next season than the other. In any case the threat of no coming back may have finally gotten Sorenson’s attention focused on playin the way the Union wants.
      He still is practicing with Union II whenever I have observed practices.
      The second idea is that it may have something to do with having bodies available if Kai Wagner does not come back. Sorenson knows the system. Any outsider brought in would have to learn it.
      But as I said, I have no inkling whether either of these thoughts has any validity. None.

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