Match Reports / Union II

Match report: Philadelphia Union II 3 – 1 Columbus Crew 2

Photo @PhilaUnionII

Sunday evening at Subaru Park Philadelphia Union II defeated Columbus Crew II 3-1 behind a brace from striker Sal Olivas, who was returning from injury, and a goal and an assist from left midfielder CJ Olney. Central midfielder Adrian Gonzalez spoiled the clean sheet on behalf of Columbus.

In the absence of attacking midfielder David Vazquez, who was called up from the USYNT U19s, recent first-team homegrown signing Cavan Sullivan made his first start as a professional at attacking midfield, playing 55 minutes. He is the youngest player in the history of American soccer to start a professional match at 14 and 7/10ths years old.

In Advance

Union II played less than 24 hours after the Union first team tied Montreal. Since both matches were at Subaru Park, travel logistics imposed no restrictions on first-team reserves playing down. Neither did international duty. Right back Jamir Berdecio had been called into the Bolivian national team for the game against Mexico at Soldier Field in Chicago Friday, May 31, but returned to Philadelphia in time to start. Bolivia will play Ecudaor in a friendly tune-up on June 12 prior to the beginning of the 2024 Copa America.  The availability of Nick Pariano, Giovanny Sequera, and Randy Meneses was officially unknown. Injury is suspected in each case.

The Academy U17s also played Saturday, winning a make-up match against Montreal. They had already clinched their slot in the championship bracket of MLS NEXT Cup. Since the Crew II match would be of higher developmental value, professionals Nelson Pierre and Cavan Sullivan started for Union II. Four other U17s, striker Anisse Saidi, midfielder Kellan LeBlanc, striker/midfielder Jamir Johnson, and defender Andrew Craig were on the bench. Saidi, LeBlanc, and Johnson all played.

Columbus’s first team played Pachuca in Mexico in the final of the Concacaf Champions’ Cup Saturday might, logistically restricting the ability of extra reserves to play down against Philadelphia.

First half

For the first 30 minutes Union II dominated. Columbus had only half a dozen thrusts into their offensive third. Thereafter, the home team’s energy edge wore down, and the game became more even. All scoring occurred in the first half.

The key to the half was that individual Columbus defensive backs were vulnerable to individual changes of direction by Union II attackers one v one in front of goal. Additionally, the central center back was vulnerable to pace when defending long service behind him. Both Olivas’s second goal and Olney’s began with individual juke’s against their markers opening up shots against which Columbus keeper Stanislav Lapkes had no chance.

At half time Philadelphia had outshot Columbus ten to five, and shots on goal were four to two.

Second half

Columbus evened out the shooting statistics in the second half. (see Boxscore below).

Crew II head coach Kelvin Jones subbed for his central defender in his 3-4-3 at halftime, and Diego Almeida’s superior pace reduced the frequency of the Union II fast breaks that had beaten Ty Nero with long balls served into space.

MLS NEXT Pro does not keep possession statistics for 2024. By eyeball the first 30 minutes of the second half were more or less even. The last fifteen favored Crew II as coach LeBlanc’s subs in the 72 minute put willing but athletically over-matched U17 players onto the pitch in the attack and the midfield to see out the game.

To the youngsters’ credit they managed it, helped by a handful of excellent saves from goalkeeper Andrew Rick. But Union II’s dominance of the match’s first half-hour was more than reversed after roughly the 75th minute.

With slightly less than half an hour to go, coach Jones brought on diminutive 17-year-old winger Anthony Alaouieh who will develop into an impressive player if he grows bigger and stronger. His quickness and technical control created trouble down Union II’s right defensive channel, until coach LeBlanc brought on Gavin Wetzel for Jamir Berdecio in the 78th. Wetzel stays home defensively more than the Bolivian, and thereafter the Crew youngster affected play much less.

Cavan Sullivan

The short answer to how the Union’s 14-year-old home grown did in his first pro start is that he belonged. Additionally, he nearly doubled the minutes he had recorded in his previous two substitute appearances.

The effects of a few weeks practicing with the first team were obvious. Most striking was the speed with which he reacted to changing developments. Equally speedy is the manner in which he now covers ground. And his sprint speed when recovering defensively or attacking to receive a teammate’s pass is much better than it was in late March. Most impressive was the way he and CJ Olney interchanged between the central channel and the left, seamlessly. On the day Sullivan seemed ambipedal — the foot equivalent of ambidextrous —  at the speed of an MLS NEXT Pro match.

It would be fun to watch a midfield of Sullivan, Vazquez, and Olney play together in front of Rick, Westfield, Makhanya, Pierre, Berdecio, and Ngabo, the current version of Tanner 2.0’s defense. Hopefully we get to see that sometime in the fall after MLS NEXT Cup and YSC Academy’s graduation are over.

The four academy U17s who came on in the second half who managed to see out the win provided a noticeable contrast to Sullivan. They played like the excellent 17-year-olds that they are. But they were going up against young men and fully developed adolescents. To their credit they were as game for the challenge as they could be. But they were athletically over-matched.

Cavan Sullivan was not. The improvement in his play since his debut March 24 is both impressive and clear.  His major challenge playing for Union II will be to develop game-to-game consistency and to improve his stamina. He is not yet a 90 minute Union II player.

That he might debut with the first team in more than an end-of-game cameo before 2024 is over now seems much more credible than it did three months ago.

Next Match

Union II will host FC Cincinnati II on Thursday, June 6 at 6 PM at Subaru Park.  Cincinnati gave LeBlanc’s boys their only defeat in Northern Kentucky on April 28 by a 3-1 score. Cincinnati currently lies fourth in the conference table.

Three Points + Four
  1. This match was the best the striker duo of Edward Davis III and Sal Olivas have looked so far this season.
  2. Union II remains in first place in both the Eastern Conference and the league as a whole, one point ahead of Chattanooga.
  3. Jamir Berdecio earned his first cap for Bolivia Friday night substituting on for the last 12 minutes of their 1-0 loss to Mexico.
  4. As the first team has posted on social media, Sanders Ngabo‘s father has passed away and he has returned home.
  5. David Vazquez has been called up to the USYNT U19s.
  6. Markus Anderson has a fresh knock according to Jim Curtin.
  7. Melinda Homa was impressively consistent applying the same standard of play equally to both sides as the referee.



Union II (4-1-2-1-2, L-R) 1st – 4+0, U II – 5+2, Acad Am – 2+6

Starters: Andrew Rick; Frank Westfield, Olwethu Makhanya, Neil Pierre, Jamir Berdecio (Gavin Wetzel 78′); Carlos Rojas; CJ Olney, Kyle Tucker (Alex Perez 72′); Cavan Sullivan (Jamir Johnson 55′); Sal Olivas (Anisse Saidi 72′), Edward Davis III (Kellan LeBlanc 72′).

Rick Westfield Makhanya Pierre Berdecio Rojas
18.3 18.5 20.1 16.6 21.8 20.4
Olney Tucker Sullivan Olivas Davis
17.5 24.9 14.7 17.9 18.0

Starters’ Average Age = 19.0 (7 teenagers)

Unused substitutes: Mike Sheridan; Andrew Craig, Leandro Soria.

Crew 2: (3-4-3, (L-R))

Starters:Stanislav Lapkes; Christopher Rogers, Ty Nero (Diego Almeida HT), Christopher Person; Jacob Greene, Giorgio De Libera (Nicolas Rincon 77′), Adrian Gonzalez, Owen Presthus; Tristan Brown (Anthony Alaioueh 64′), Jayden Da (Bent Adu-Gyamfi 88′), Gibran Rayo (Terron Williams 88′)

Unused substitute: Joshua Veychek.


UNion II         16th minute         Salolivas (CJ Olney, Cavan Sullivan)

Union II         36th minute         Sal Olivas

Crew 2           42nd minute         Arian Gonzalez (????)

Union II        44th minute          CJ Olney

Yellow Cards

Union II        34th minute        Olwethu Makhanya (off ball foul)

Crew 2          45+2 minute.       Jacob Greene (foul)

Union II        84th minute.       Andrew Rick (foul)

Union II        90th minute        Alex Perez (foul)

U II Statistic Crew2 U II Statistic Crew2
17 Shots 16 2 Offsides 3
5 Shots on goal 5 4 Goalkeeper Saves 2
7 Blocked shots 4 8 Clearances 4
319 Total Passes 586
76.8 Pass Accuracy % 86.9 14 Fouls 6
4 Corners 12 3 Yellow Cards 1
7 Total Crosses 11 0 Red Cards 0
Whistle & Flags

Ref: Melinda Homa, AR1: Zeno Cho, AR2: Justen Lopez, 4TH: Patrick Slane,


  1. Andy Muenz says:

    Annoyed that I can’t find a full replay of Sullivan’s first start given that I had another commitment last night and didn’t get to see it live.

    • Tim Jones says:

      Apple has cut back on what it provides for MLS NEXT Pro this season. Sorry.
      Best I found on YouTube is a 90 in 15 summary, but you probably already know about that.

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