Match Report / Union II

Match report: Philadelphia Union II 2-1 Toronto FC II

Photo courtesy @PhilaUnionII

Sunday afternoon in the season opener at Subaru Park, Philadelphia Union II fell behind to Toronto FC II late in the first half, only to come from behind to win 2-1 with two goals in the first ten minutes of half number two.

The young Reds’ Jesus Batiz scored in the 41st minute of the first half on an assist from Julian Altobelli, only have his lead matched in the in the 51st minute by a Frank Westfield header directly from David Vazquez’s corner kick service and then surpassed by Edward Davis stripping and then dekeing Toronto keeper Abraham Rodriguez for an uncontested match winner.

Union II goalkeeper Andrew Rick stoned two earlier Toronto breakaways and helped hurry a third one wide to keep Philadelphia in the game in the first half.

Head coach Marlon LeBlanc’s two tactical halftime adjustments then changed the game.  He changed from a 4-2-2-2 to a 4-1-2-1-2 narrow diamond with a single six and a single 10. And he adjusted the pressing cues of his strikers to stop the through balls from Toronto’s defenders and central midfielders that had created the breakaways.

In advance

The Union first team played away in Austin Texas Saturday night, while Toronto’s played in New York City. The young Reds received two last minute first team reinforcements, defender Andrew Pearlman and striker Jordan Peruza. Goalkeeper Andrew Rick returned early from Texas to net mind for Union II.

All other Union first team participants had spent the previous week in Chester practicing with the second team. They needed the game minutes to prepare for Portland during the international break when many first team players will be absent. Olwethu Makhanya now has 90 minutes under his belt as a reserve center back  behind Jack Elliott and Jakob Glesnes.

Key points about Toronto FC II this year are “new season, new leadership at the first team, new ideas, new game model.” Coach Cimini characterized the new identity this way, “The key words are aggressive, adaptable, and organized. Aggressive without the ball, adaptable to the opposition – the way they press, the way you want to step out to press – and organized and prepared. Those will be the main three real pillars of the identity you’re going to see from TFC II this year.”

First Half

 The first fifteen minutes saw both sides playing cautiously, as made sense for an opening game. The Union then began to have more of possession and  attack for the rest of the half.  As the match evolved they seemed better conditioned, reflecting their 11 week preseason as opposed to Toronto’s seven.

Toronto had four breakaway thrusts. The first two were saved directly by Andrew Rick with close-down blocks. The third came from a semi-tackled back pass by Olwethu Mkhanaya that Jordan Perruzza shot wide. The fourth was the goal.

Second Half

Coach LeBlanc performed his usual halftime magic.

The clearest indication of his success was that his goalkeeper faced no more game-preserving emergencies. He faced no shots at all in the second half.

Had Union II’s strikers laced their shooting boots properly at halftime, the match would have been much less close than one goal.

Coach encouraged his side to hit long diagonal balls from the right and central channels to the left for Frank Westfield. As LeBlanc commented post game, Westfield got forward much more as a left back on his weak foot than he had ever done previously on his stronger right.

After the vice-captain tied it, Toronto goalie Rodriguez failed to clear a back pass quickly. He allowed Davis and Vazquez to transition from squeezing his passing lane to doubling the ball at his feet. And he could not use his hands because his teammate had made the back pass with feet. Davis cleaned him, deked him, and won the match.

LeBlanc began to substitute as the half wore on. In the 73rd minute he replaced his shuttling midfielders Pariano and Tucker. He brought on last year’s veteran Alex Perez and newcomer Giovanny Sequera.

Then in stoppage time he made two more subs at striker. Newcomer Randy Meneses moved David Vazquez up into the striker line for Sal Olivas and sat deeper as a second six. And Ryan Zellefrow gave match winner Davis his curtain call in a like for like swap.

Toronto’s primary tactic was to place speed on both touchlines. They flip-flopped their speed demons from side to side. But Westfield allowed very little, and newcomer Jamir Berdecio grew into the game a great deal, especially in the second half. Toronto coach Cimini moved Jesus Batiz, his first half goal-scorer, back onto the side of his earlier success. But Union II’s pacey Bolivian had learned from his earlier mistakes and locked the door to the right defensive channel.

The match achieved the organization’s underlying purpose, to prepare for Portland during the international break. Pariano, Berdecio, Ngabo, and Makhanya all now have significant minutes under their belts as they face the possibility of getting minutes in six days in the Pacific northwest.

The looming question is how Union II will be staffed for its next game. When asked to comment postgame, coach LeBlance said that as yet he had no answers.

Next Game

Union II next plays in exactly a week, Sunday, March 24 at Subaru Park hosting New England Revolution II at 3:00 PM.

Three Points: Newcomers’ first performances
  1. Jamir Berdecio: The Bolivian right back occasionally showed he is mentally not used to playing within the Union organization’s style. But he is already adjusting to North American physicality, and he brings both good technique and excellent pace to the pitch. His English is said to be good, so over time direct instruction and practice should produce improvement.
  2. Sanders Ngabo: The Burundian defensive midfielder who played previously in Denmark justified his coach’s faith that he could handle being a single six. His passes from the second half’s more central position are especially worthy of comment. Twice he sent through balls that on a more fortunate night would have earned him assists.
  3. Giovanny Sequera: The diminutive Venezuelan midfielder immediately began to dispel worries about his stature. Response to cues still must become instinctive rather than thoughtful. And he was not in the game long enough to assess his endurance. But he seems credible as an MLS NEXT Pro midfielder.



 Union II (1st team – 4; U II Pros – 8; Acad Ams – 7,) (4-2-2-2, L-R) Starters: Andrew Rick; Frank Westfield, Olwethu Makhanya, Neil Pierre, Jamir Berdecio; Sanders Ngabo, Kyle Tucker (Giovanny Sequera, 73’); Nick Pariano (Alex Perez, 73’), David Vazquez; Edward Davis (Ryan Zellefrow, 98’) Sal Olivas (Randy Meneses, 93’).

Starters’ Ages & Average: Average  = 19.4

Rick 18.1 Westfield 18.3 Makhanya 19.9 Pierre 16.4 Berdecio 21.6 Tucker 24.6
Ngabo 19.7 Pariano 21.0 Vazquez 18.1 Olivas 17.7 Davis 17.5

 Unused substitutes: Mike Sheridan; Jack Andrus, Gavin Wetzel, Carlos Rojas.

Toronto II (3-4-3, L-R) Starters: Abe Rodriguez; Antony Curic, Lazar Stefanovic (Marko Stojadinovic 64’) , Adam Pearlman (Tristan Pusztahegyi 74’); Jesus Batiz, Markus Cimermancic, Kristjan Fortier (Ythallo Rodrigues de Oliveira 64’), Theo Rigopoulos (Nathaniel Edwards 46’); Julian Altobelli, Jordan Perruzza (Dekwon Barrow 64’), Mark Fisher.

Unused substitutes: Adisa De Rosariio; Mathew Catavolo.


Toronto           41st minute           Jesus Batiz (Julian Altobelli)

Union II           51st minute           Frank Westfield (David Vazquez)

Union II           54th minute           Edward Davis

 Yellow Cards

 Union II             9th minute           David Vazquez (Professional foul)

Toronto           47th minute           Jesus Batiz

Union II           71st minute           Olwethu Mkhanya (foul)

Toronto           77th minute           Julian Altobelli

Toronto           79th minute           Markus Cimermancic

Union II           82nd minute           Jamir Berdecio (foul)

Union II           90+3 minute          Sanders Ngabo (persistent infringement)

Toronto           90+3 minute          Ythallo

Toronto           90+7 minute          Anthony Curic

U II Statistic T II U II Statistic T II
Possession % 1 Offsides 2
17 Shots 5 Aerial Duels won
6 Shots on goal 3 Expected goals
7 Blocked shots 0 2 Saves 4
306 Total Passes 425 4 Clearances 19
76.8 Pass Accuracy % 84.5 19 Fouls 14
6 Corners 1 4 Yellow Cards 5
12 Crosses 3 0 Red Cards 0

 Whistle & Flags

Ref: Thomas Snyder, AR1: Robert Cordrey, AR2: Patrick Slane, 4th: Stephen Foster.


  1. Andy Muenz says:

    Except for finishing ability, I thought the Union 2 were dominant yesterday, especially once they cut down on giving up breakaways.
    One of the most interesting situations happened when the Union 2 had a first half free kick goal called back for an infraction. I believe the issue was that just as the free kick was taken, Frankie Westfield ran right next to the defensive wall which became an infraction a couple of years ago when a rule was added that offensive players had to be at least a yard away from a wall of two or more players. Assuming that’s what was called, it was the first time I’ve seen this infraction happen. Fortunately, Westfield made up for it on their first goal.

  2. Well done, Andy, for picking up that rule change! Thank you.
    Reinforcing the probability of your inference is that on a later –2nd had? — restart against a wall, when Union II put its own wall in front of Toronto’s, the referee paced off a yard in front of Toronto’s and laid down a second restraining line with his disappearing spray paint.
    In my opinion that detail clinches the accuracy of your explanation.

  3. A morning-after addition.
    Jamir Berdecio’s first match bears great similarity to Holden Trent’s first penalty kick shootout last year.

    Trent was tentative and uncertain trying to stop shot one and did not succeed. On shot five he threw caution to the winds and made the point-securing save.
    Berdecio’s match feels similarly to me. In the first half every once in a while uncertainty dominated his play. He did not force the action. In the second half particularly after the early crunching collision that left both players on the ground that earned the Bolivian his red card, there was no more “wait and see” to his game. Instead he was willing to be hanged for a sheep instead of a lamb, and the mental decisiveness meant he dominated his marks.
    That decisiveness is what was apparent immediately from Giovanny Sequera as I think. about it.

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