MLS NEXT Pro Match Report / Union II

Match report: FC Cincinnati 2 3 – 1 Philadelphia Union II

Photo courtesy Philadelphia Union II communications

After 20 minutes of Philadelphia Union II dominance, FC Cincinnati 2’s first serious threat to Andrew Rick’s goal came from attacking central midfielder Gerardo Valenzuela. Valenzuela shrugged through defensive mid Sanders Ngabo, then split right back Jamir Berdecio from right center back Neil Pierre, controlled the ball past Rick, and scored into the empty net. It was the first goal of the Valenzuela hat trick that earned Cincinnati its 3-1 win over Philadelphia.

In advance

Union II traveled to northern Kentucky before the first team played Real Salt Lake in Chester Saturday night, so they could not receive last-minute first team reinforcements. Among the two professional games, the whereabouts of striker Markus Anderson and midfielder Nick Pariano remain unknown. Also of interest, the Academy U17s played Toronto FC in Canada Saturday at noon, which probably explained the absence of all U17 players except center back Neil Pierre.

By contrast, it was possible for Cincinnati 2 to receive extra first team reinforcements since their first team played at home the night before. Four starters were from the first team roster. Going into the match, Cincinnati 2 had two wins, three losses, and a tie, lying eighth in the Eastern conference. Union II held first place at 3-0-3  ahead of Red Bulls II on goal difference. Coach LeBlanc said Cincinnati 2 have an international presence and some older players. Most recently they beat Atlanta 2 by 4-1.

Northern Kentucky University’s playing surface is artificial, Field Turf specifically, which occasionally seemed to affect play.

First half

When Philadelphia had Cincinnati on their heels during the first twenty minutes, the hosts penetrated into their attacking third only twice.

But in the 21st minute, Valenzuela showed the technical characteristic that dominated the rest of the match–excellent close control on the dribble. He dribbled the four Union II defenders mentioned for the only goal of the half.

Ten minutes later, with the temperature in the low 80s, the referee called for a hydration break which lasted four minutes.

Cincinnati grew in confidence as the half ended, staying closely packed in zone 14. Several times Union II attackers would lose the ball to the third or fourth defender, and when the hosts counterattacked, their strikers were tight up against their defenders and proficient at controlling the ball past them. Often Philadelphia’s defense lacked cover and depth.

The Union II attack put no shots on target in the first half.

Second half

Head coach Marlon LeBlanc substituted Carlos Rojas for Olwethu Makhanya at left center back at half time.

In the 49th minute, Union II gave up a free kick near the right touchline 30 or 35 yards away, and Valenzuela tapped home Peter Mangione’s excellent service for his second goal.

Philadelphia recorded its first shot on target in the 60th minute, a header right at the Cincinnati goalkeeper Hunter Morse from a sequence that began from a free kick.

Two minutes later LeBLanc made a triple substitution. Gavin Wetzel replaced Jamir Berdecio at right back as is becoming customary, Kyle Tucker replaced Giovanny Sequera in the midfield, and newcomer striker Leandro Soria came on for Edward Davis III.

In the 75th minute, Cincinnati’s Amir Daley received a yellow card for a bad foul. Head coach Tyrone Marshall substituted for Moises Tablante,  and on the foul’s free kick in the 77th Kyle Tucker scored unstoppably to the far upper 90 from a good distance on the left side. Immediately after the goal the referee called for another hydration break.

In the 88th with Union II committing heavily to the attack trying to secure an equalizer, Cincinnati found substitute right back Jesus Cascante down the right flank. He beat his only defender and was free to cross early into the center where Valenzuela barely outreached Wetzel and deked Rick to complete his hat trick and ice the match.

The goals, substitutions, and hydration breaks meant stoppage time lasted over ten minutes. Union II never gave up, and their best chance was tipped onto the crossbar by Morse in the 94th before the final whistle blew in the 101st.

Cincinnati 2 has now beaten Union II in three straight match-ups.

Next game

Union II next host Huntsville (Nashville’s professional second team) at Subaru Park on Sunday, May 5 at 3:00 PM.

Three points

  1. Philadelphia Union II announced signing striker Leandro Soria, 19 ½ and originally from Queens, on Friday. He had been playing primarily for top flight side Godoy Cruz’s reserve side in Argentinia. Transfermarkt lists him as primarily a right winger, but he played on the left in northern Kentucky. He played the last half hour plus stoppage time. He wore number 45.
  2. Chris Albright’s patience with coach Tyrone Marshall is beginning to pay off.
  3. Although Sanders Ngabo failed to stop Valenzuela’s first goal, he continues to impress as a single six, including a 43rd minute header to clear a restart served to the far post that otherwise would have been scored.



Union II (4-1-2-1-2, L-R) 1st – 3+0; U II – 6+4; Acad – 2+3.

Starters:  Average age = 18.6. Andrew Rick; Frank Westfield, Olwethu Makhanya (Carlos Rojas HT), Neil Pierre, Jamir Berdecio (Gavin Wetzel 62′); Sanders Ngabo; CJ Olney, Giovanny Sequera (Kyle Tucker 62′); David Vazquez; Edward Davis III (Leandro Soria 62′), Sal Olivas.

Rick Westfield Makhanya Pierre Berdecio Ngabo
18.2 18.4 20.0 16.5 21.7 19.8
Olney Sequera Vazquez Davis Olivas
17.4 18.2 18.2 17.9 17.8

Unused substitutes: Mike Sheridan; , Jack Andrus, , Alex Perez.

Cincinnati 2 (3-5-2, L-R). Starters: Hunter Morse; Isaiah Foster (Jesus Castellano 83′), Brian Shaefer, London Aghedo (Gael Gilbert 61′); Moises Tablante (Ben Stitz 76′), Stiven Jimenez, Gerardo Valenzuela, Nico Benalcazar, Amir Daley; Stefan Chirilla (Yiener Valoyes 90+7′), Peter Mangione.

Unused substitutes: Luke Laramore; Nicholas Samways, Conner Stout, Juan Machado,  Alejandro Guido.


Cincy 2             21st          Gerardo Valenzuela

Cincy 2            49th          Gerardo Valenzuela (Peter Mangione)

Union II          77th          Kyle Tucker

Cincy 2           88th           Gerardo Valenzuela (Jesus Castellanos)

Yellow Cards

Union II         44th          Giovanny Sequera (persistent infringement)

Cincy 2           75th          Amir Daley (foul)

Union II         86th         Neil Pierre (foul)

Cincy 2          90th          Jesus Cascante (foul)


Cin 2 Statistic U II Cin 2 Statistic U II
13 Shots 8 5 Offsides 1
5 Shots on goal 2 1 Goalkeeper Saves 2
3 Blocked shots 3 12 Clearances 6
438 Total Passes 325
81.7 Pass Accuracy % 71.5 12 Fouls 18
5 Corners 5 2 Yellow Cards 2
5 Total Crosses 8 0 Red Cards 0

Whistle & Flags

Ref: Matt Thompson, AR1: James Duling, AR2: Sharon Gingrich, 4TH: Mohamed Sadraoui


  1. Andy Muenz says:

    I think your last line about the first half sums things up. Even though the Union dominated the first 20 minutes, they had zero shots on goal and no real scoring opportunities.
    Regard Anderson (quad) and Pariano (knee) both are listed as OUT in the MLS player availability list.
    Anderson’s status will likely affect the first team tomorrow night since he was on the field when the Union-Seattle game first started and if he is out, he will need to be replaced off the bench at the restart.

    • Curtin’s pre-game presser today suggested that Flach might replace Real on the bench and Carranza Anderson on the field.

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