Commentary / Philadelphia Union II

Union II’s Jose Riasco: Performance and Prospects

Photo @Boston River

Last season for reasons clarified by Ernst Tanner at the end-of-season press conference, Union II striker Jose Riasco left  on loan to Uruguay’s top division side CA Boston River sometime between his last game appearance June 18 and August 27 when Boston River tweeted his welcome. Union II’s own announcement September 8 said the loan was for “the remainder of the 2023 season.” At the presser Tanner said the Union are currently working to sign Riasco to the first team.

Joe Tansey of Union Soccer Blog reports behind the paywall that “Tanner is working to get a first-team deal done for Riasco, but that process is more difficult than a normal deal because another MLS club holds his discovery rights.”

“ He is doing very good [sic] at Boston River right now,” Tanner said further in the presser. “He just needs to play first-team minutes and develop further on. He is just 19 years of age and the second team was not really the place where he wanted to be. We are also in discussions with the league to make it happen to bring him back for the first team.”

Riasco is a 19.9 year-old Venezuelan striker who signed with Philadelphia Union II two years ago, March 23, 2022.  Back then he spoke no English as an 18-year-old, learning a difficult new playing system in a foreign country. He came from Venezuelan first division side Deportivo La Guaira.

Our photo with Riasco on the left is published on @BostonRiver, the club’s official Twitter/X account. It illustrates that Riasco has been called up to the Venezuelan U-23 side that will compete in January for one of CONMEBOL’s slots at the 2024 Paris Olympics. It further reinforces Tanner’s point that the loan has succeeded.

The loan

At the beginning of Uruguay’s 2023 Clausera (last August), Boston River was treating Riasco as its third or fourth striker.  Tanner’s comment that he was doing well suggests he earned that role on merit.

He has practiced with La Sastre  or “the tailor” — a widely used Boston River nickname  — for at least four months, possibly six, and has 11 appearances totaling 448 minutes as of December 9 when the Clausera ended. The club finished in eighth place with six wins, seven losses, and two draws. For the year overall they finished 13th of 18 and successfully avoided relegation.

By the Union’s own evaluation standards, Riasco’s 448 minutes are too few. But Boston River was trying to counterbalance a 15th place Apertura finish from  the previous southern hemisphere fall (last February to May). They got a new manager for the winter’s torneo intermedio (June & July) and this spring’s Clausera (August to December) and the move succeeded.

The details

Boston River announced Riasco’s presence on its official twitter/X account, @BostonRiver, on August 27, before the second match of the Clausera stage of their 2023 championship season. That the three segments of Boston River’s season  all occur during the same calendar year means Riasco’s loan will end in time for him to return to Philadelphia for 2024’s preseason once CONMEBOL’s pre-Olympic tournament (20-Jan to 1-Feb) is over.

Below we chart everything we have discovered about Riasco’s Boston River game activities. Earlier in the fall he was a late game striker substitute against first division teams. More recently he got starts. The pattern suggests both evaluation and conditioning.

He has a goal and two assists in the top flight.

In his first senior team start (it was not in the Clausera), he scored in the Copa Uruguay Round of 32, Boston River’s entry match against amateur side Universitario.

Opponent Clausera Date Result Riasco Mins
Racing CM 1 of 15 20Aug W 1-0
Cerro 2 of 15 27Aug W 2-1 Sub 2nd half 13’
Penarol 3 of 15 2Sep L 1-0 Sub 2nd half 8’
Maldonado 4 of 15 8Oct W 2-0 Sub 2nd half 3’
River Plate 5 of 15 15Oct L 2-1 Sub 2nd half 21’
Nacional 6 of 15 19Oct W 2-0 Sub 2nd half 1’
Danubio 7 of 15 24Oct D 1-1 Dressed DNP
Copa Uruguay Round of 32
Universitario 1 of 1 28Oct W 3-1 Start, goal 60’
Clausera resumed
Fenix 8 of 15 4Nov D 1-1 Dressed DNP
Wanderers 9 of 15 12Nov W 2-0 Sub2½ Asst 23′
La Luz 10 of 15 16Nov L 2-1 Start, Assist 90′
Defensor 11 of 15 20Nov L 2-0 Start 45′
Torque 12 of 15 25Nov W 2-0 Start, goal 66′
Liverpool 13 of 15 29Nov L 2-0 DNDress
Cerro Largo 14 of 15 3Dec L 1-0 Start 90′
Plaza Colonia 15 of 15 8Dec L 3-2 Start 90′

Boston River’s Copa Uruguay Round of 16 match against Penarol was originally scheduled for November 7  but has been postponed, probably because of the referees’ strike detailed below.  Graphics posted at @CopaAUFUruguay imply the tournament will be finished, but the fixture’s new date remains undiscovered.

Between September 2 and October 8, two Boston River first division matches were postponed by a referees’ strike that protested fan violence against game officials during a U-19 match. Historically, Uruguay’s referees strike to protest against such violence.

There is an indication that Riasco may have played twice in U-23 matches during the referee’s strike, and that he may have scored in each. 


Tanner has said that the Union are working to sign Riasco to a first-team contract. That another MLS side holds his discovery rights complicates the process. We guess that perhaps a quantity of allocation money, or possibly a draft pick, will need to change hands. Tanner seemed optimistic during the presser.

The legal mechanics of contracts in United States soccer do not follow those of other American professional farm teams, like baseball. Legally, MLS itself, not an individual club, is the contracting agent for all MLS players. By contrast, the Phillies directly controlled Andrew Painter all the time he was in the minors.

But Riasco’s current contract with Union II is an entity entirely separate from Major League Soccer. So MLS must sign him from Union II on behalf of the Union. The issue was illustrated in last year’s Superdraft when the Union drafted Union II’s Stefan Stojanovic to preempt any other MLS club from signing him.

Were the Union to sign Riasco, it would be interesting to see whether or not he may be a U-22 initiative player.


  1. Thanks, Tim. I assume we don’t know which other team holds the discovery rights. If that other team were to attempt to sign him, would they need to compensate Union 2?

  2. This shit is one of many, exact– reasons, this depot has to continue on as a News Station.
    Stellar work, Tim

    • Thanks, mighty elephant, but give thanks to those who have the skills and the time to step into the new leadership roles, should they do so.

  3. From the MLS site:
    “If a club wants to sign a player on the Discovery List of another club that has higher Discovery priority on the player, it may offer that club $50,000 in General Allocation Money in exchange for the right to sign the player. The club with the player on its Discovery List will then have five days (or three days during the Secondary Transfer Window) to either (i) accept the General Allocation Money and pass on the right to sign the player or (ii) make the player a genuine, objectively reasonable offer.”
    I would guess that the U may also offer more than 50k GAM to have the other club remove the player from the discovery list.

  4. For anyone interested in the 2023 Copa Uruguay, I think I have discovered the the seven postponed Round of 16 matches will be played on January 27, 2024.
    They include Boston River v Penarol. Riasco’s loan will be over by then. And in any case he would be away with the Venezuela u-23s in the CONMEBOL pre-Olympic qualifiers.

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