26 June 1:59 pm

The Philadelphia Union U-18s were in action again today for the final day of group play in the US Soccer Development Academy playoffs. The U-18s took on LA Galaxy’s U-18s in the final game for U-18 Group E.

The U-18’s game was first, playing against the LA Galaxy at 9 a.m.. The Union U-18s are unable to advance beyond the group stage, making this the final game for some members of the team.

Today’s lineup featured a bit of a shake-up, running a 4-1-4-1 formation with Yosef Samuel up top. This was Samuel’s first game action in the USSDA playoffs.

 The game started fast for the Union with Samuel getting off some good looks early and actually putting on into the goal in the 8th minute off of a long distance strike. After the goal, the game opened up more for both sides as both were playing for pride after being mathematically eliminated.

The Union continued to high press, even after the halftime break, causing some mayhem for the Galaxy. They took their foot off the gas a little bit but managed to keep it close. Towards the end, coach Peter Fuller started to put more on the seniors in, giving them the chance to play in their final game. They managed to hold the game as it was and when the final whistle blew, the Union had won 1-0.

24 June 5:05 pm

The Philadelphia Union U-18s and U-16s were both in action today, with the U-18s taking on Kendall SC and the U-16s taking on Weston FC.

The U-18’s game was first, playing against Kendall, an academy team from the Southeast region. They held Kendall off for a majority of the first half, only conceding one goal off of a long pass in the 38th minute.

They started the half down 1-0 but managed to pull even in the 50th minute when Frederick Gil wove through the defense to tuck the ball into the back of the net. Kendall scored two minutes later to go back ahead 2-1. The Union continued to claw their way back to even after Mo Conde was able to direct his header past the goalkeeper in the 60th minute.

The game continued to be played close all the way to the finish where Kendall SC was able to score in the 89th to win the game 3-2. Since the Montreal Impact U-18s won today against the LA Galaxy U-18s, the winner of Kendall vs. Montreal on Friday will advance to the quarterfinals.

The U-16s also faced a tough test against Weston FC, keeping the score 0-0 until Weston managed to score in the 60th minute. Weston were given an extra burst of energy after scoring and started to win every 50-50 ball. The Union weathered the storm and scored in the 70th minute thanks to a goal from Tiger Graham.

With the score tied at 1-1, the Union turned it up one more notch and managed to score in the 79th minute, with Jack Skahan netting the goal after getting on the end of a throw in from Graham.

They would go on to win 2-1 and sit in first place in their group. Their next game is on Friday against the Houston Dynamo U-16s.

Said Academy Director Tommy Wilson after the U-16 game, “I'm really proud of the boys and Weston are one of the best teams we've played. The boys once again showed great resolve coming back from a losing position to win the match. Our focus now turns to the last game on Friday.”

23 June 5:32 pm

The Philadelphia Union Academy U-16 team played their first game of the 2015 US Soccer Development Academy playoffs today, facing off against Everton FC Westchester.

The Union U-16s are the number two seed in the tournament and came out of the gates playing like it. Starting in a 4-4-1-1 formation, star in the making Justin McMaster played in his preferred number 10 role while Andrew Verdi got the starting nod in goal.

The Union took it to Everton in the opening minutes, forcing a corner and then a save off the line, all before the nine-minute mark. While they played a high pressure system, they had one or two mental lapses on the defensive end that called for Verdi to make some pretty remarkable saves.

The pressure from the Union eventually broke down the Everton defense, with the team scoring their first goal of the tournament through Tiger Graham, who was assisted on the goal by Jack Skahan. The game would go into halftime with the Union up 1-0.

The second half saw both teams come out with renewed energy but it only took two minutes for the Union to break through and score again, this time it was McMaster on another assist from Skahan. Both Skahan and McMaster would be subbed out in the 64th minute but the offense remained for the Union as one of the substitutes, Raheem Taylor-Parkes, scored just two minutes after being subbed on for McMaster.

Everton would go on to get one back but that was the end of the scoring on the day for both teams. Both teams looked tired at the end of the game with chances becoming less and less frequent. The game ended in a 3-1 Union win.

The Union U-16s will be in action again tomorrow when they face off against Weston FC at 2:30.

23 June 3:44 pm

The Philadelphia Union Academy U-18 team played their first game of the 2015 US Soccer Development Academy playoffs today, facing off against the number one seed in the tournament, the Montreal Impact.

The starting lineup presented by the Union was similar to the one that was seen last week in their warm-up game against Reading United A.C. The team set up in a 4-1-4-1 lineup, with Sebastian Elney up top and Cameron Keys in goal.

The game was tight for both teams until the Impact managed to score in the 30th minute. They then score again in the 37th minute after they got a head to a corner kick. The score remained 2-0 going in to the half, with possession being split nearly 50-50. The game continued to be played close until the 70th minute when Derrick Jones came onto the field as a substitute.

After Jones was subbed on, the Union began to attack in full force, throwing everything they had at the Impact. After a succession of chances, the Union finally scored off of a Sebastian Elney free kick to make the score 2-1 with only stoppage time remaining.

Now, with a chance of getting a draw, the Union turned it up to a gear that they have rarely shown before and hammered the Impact until they finally made a mistake and conceded a penalty. Jones stepped up and slotted the ball past the keeper, leveling it up at 2-2. The referee blew his whistle shortly after kickoff.

This is a huge win for the U-18 team as they managed to get a draw against the toughest team in their group. This gives them hope to make it out of the group stage, as only the winner can advance to the quarterfinals.

The Union U-18’s had previously lost to the same Montreal team early May, losing 4-1.

17 June 7:19 pm

The Philadelphia Union U16 Academy team handed the FC Continental U18s a 4-0 drubbing this afternoon in preparation for the USSDA playoffs next week.

After the game, head coach Jeff Cook was happy with his team’s performance and excited for the upcoming tournament.

“The main objective today was preparation for next week. We haven’t played a game since June 6 when the academy season ended so we wanted to get back into competing and preparing for a game…so I was pleased with how the guys approached the game. It’s going to be 3 good teams and we’re going to have to be very intensely focused on the first game. FC West Chester have made the playoffs and they’re a good club from suburban New York. We’ve seen some tape on them. They have a very good striker we’re going to have to control, and we’ll have to make good on our chances to score. We’re a good team going forward, so if we can maximize our chances it’ll give us a good chance to win.”

FC Continental played conservatively from the onset, holding a deep line and rarely pressuring the Union backline in their own third.

Philadelphia spent the opening moments cycling the ball and probing the Continental backline. Despite sustained pressure, they struggled to put together the final pass, save for a shot off the post in the first 15 minutes.

FC Continental grew into the game and put together a few spells of possession late in the first half, but left themselves vulnerable to a number of Union counters. One such counter caught them out as Joe Dezart stripped a Continental attacker in front of his own box. He quickly collected the ball and sent it forward to Justin McMaster. McMaster then took off down the field and played a through ball to a streaking Jack Skahan who blasted his breakaway chance into the upper corner of the net.

McMaster collected his second assist soon after, as his entry pass was badly misplayed by the Continental keeper and swept up by Tiger Graham, who put it through the keeper’s legs and into the net in the waning minute of the half.

The last bit of action occurred in the Union box, as a Continental attacker found space from 25 yards out and sent a low hard drive in towards Andrew Verdi’s goal. The shot had pace but was struck right at Verdi, who did well to smother it with multiple Continental attackers lurking for the rebound.

Head coach Jeff Cook put out a new 11 for the second half. The first action occurred only minutes in, as replacement keeper Justin Bajek.

The Union nearly struck once again as Raheem Taylor-Parkes narrowly missed a low angle shot to the far post.

Taylor-Parkes narrowly missed once again following some brilliant dribbling by Anthony Fontana. Fontana put together two spin moves before playing Raheem through, but his breakaway chance was well saved by the onrushing keeper.

After relentless pressure, the Union found their 3rd in bizarre fashion as a Dawson McCartney corner kick somehow eluded everyone and found its way into the net.

The biggest scare of the match occurred late on, as Justin Bajek whiffed on a Continental corner. Fortunately for him, Evan Godfrey was there to clear. It was one of several key interventions that Godfrey made during the half, as he put in a solid shift at center back.

The last goal was scored late on, as Kalil Elmekhar tore down Continental’s left flank and played a low cross into Juan Infante, who sent touched down the ball and struck a half volley off of the crossbar and into the net.

Cook also spoke volumes about the Union Academy program and how far it has come in only two years of existence.

“We’re coming to the end of our second year as a full time academy program and our objective is to produce outstanding players from our home territory that can eventually represent the club at PPL Park as professionals. We have about 75 players involved in the program now, of which 25 are in residency. Of that group, there’s another 50 that are students at YSC Academy. So it is a comprehensive full-time program. It’s 10 months so it’s very demanding and the staff is working absolutely tirelessly to try and accelerate the development of the most elite players in our region. We’re excited about the future and we feel that there are a lot of indicators that say we’re making good progress.”

17 June 7:15 pm

Today, on the Philadelphia Union’s practice field, the Philadelphia U-18 academy team fell 2-1 to Reading United A.C., the Union’s player development club.

Multiple players from Reading have previously featured in the U-18 academy team including University of Virginia star Darius Madison and Georgetown University’s Brett Campbell.

The game started well for the U-18’s, scoring in the first five minutes thanks to Sebastian Elney, who will play for the University of Maryland next year. He was able to make the most of a ball put into the box and put it in the back of the net despite it bouncing around after he received it. Elney’s goal was made more impressive by the fact that he was playing with a large foam covering on his wrist due to a recent sprain.

The rest of the first half went about as well as they could have hoped for, with the team alternating their defensive strategy between high pressure and low pressure. The first 15 minutes saw the players chasing down every ball and not letting the Reading players get more than two touches. This worked well as it caused Reading some early issues and lead to the goal being scored. The next 15 were dedicated to a low pressure approach, which they executed well. The final minutes of the half saw them switch back to a high pressure system in order to try to get another goal.

“I thought our work on the pressing scheme came off quite good today, and it also showed we still have some work to do with it,” head coach Peter Fuller said. “I thought the guys did a good job, particularly the first group, and overall. The first group, the first 45 minutes I thought was excellent. Going forward into next week our focus is on getting guys sharper and getting better, getting guys more and more comfortable with themselves and making sure out speed of play is right because all three teams in our group will force us to play quickly.”

Fuller then made a full line change at the half, sending out all eleven players who were on the bench for the first half, including Yosef Samuel and Derrick Jones.

The second half did not go nearly as well for the team as they struggled to press the same way that the first half team was able to. Being unable to press lead to Reading having much more time on the ball and were able to pick out passes and eventually place a cross into the box which was headed home on the far post.

Will Campbell, a University of North Carolina commit, was subbed on half way into the second half after playing in the first half. At this time, Samuel was moved into a center-forward position in a switch from the left wing. Neither of these two changes worked for the team as Reading scored a second goal, this time on a well-balanced counterattack.

In his post game talk with the players, Fuller said that he has no favorites on the team and will put the best 11 players out there that can best represent the club.  

Fuller will pick the 18 players who will travel to the US Soccer Development Academy Playoffs in Indiana on Friday. They face the U-18 teams for the Montreal Impact, the LA Galaxy and Kendall SC in group play which begins on Tuesday, June 23.

04 February 1:22 pm

On Friday, Jan. 31, the Philadelphia Union Foundation hosted a PowerPoint presentation to students at YSC Academy to discuss the importance of giving back to the community. The presentation primarily focused on educating youth and promoting values such as integrity, trust, respect and accountability.

The event addressed how soccer can be used as a tool for social change. Rick Jacobs, the keynote speaker and executive director of the Philadelphia Union Foundation, discussed how students now have a chance to change their community by giving back in their own unique way.

Students here have the opportunity to get something from the game and have the chance to give back. “The plan is to go beyond the soccer fields and give back, because that’s what it’s all about,” said Jacobs.

  • Click the graphic for more information on Cocktails and Cleats gala

Many athletes are living examples that excellence is a reinforcing value for success. Jacobs went on to connect the game of soccer to real life.  “In a game, you are constantly thinking about the next play. Where am I taking this touch? Where is my next pass going? Where can I change the game?” said Jacobs. “In life, your vision should always be up. Look to see where you can make the greatest impact -- where can I make a change?”

While the Foundation is still young, it has already completed many projects. As part of its efforts to give back to the community, the presentation reiterated the critical need for change in Chester. Jacobs encouraged students to think about what they can do to make a difference in Chester.

“You can’t do 1,000 things, but one small thing can make a difference,” said Jacobs who believes that giving back and helping out within the community is something that everyone should be involved with.

The Foundation presentation not only focused on giving back, but also becoming a well-rounded person. It aims to provide a positive impact in character development by developing athletes into men that can connect the skills learned on the field to real life. “It is important to complete the circle,” said Jacobs. “Not only developing as an athlete, but as a person and player.”

The YSC Academy students understand that giving as much on the field as off the field is the ultimate success in life. The off field wins can be seen through volunteering with charitable outreach programs and community initiatives. The students already came up with their own ideas such as Breast Cancer Awareness walks, soccer tennis tournament and AIDS and HIV fundraisers.

After the warming applause, the students broke into groups to continue working on their community projects that will be used in conjunction with the Foundation over the new few months.

Perhaps the one great thing of note: throughout the hour long presentation, Jacobs routinely came back to one phrase: “You have to willingly sacrifice.” 

He describes those who want the quick rewards are those who do not willingly sacrifice. To Jacobs, selfless sacrifice reap rewards down the road that becomes apart of you -- and it's this notion that can become the cornerstone for success.

For more on Philadelphia Union Foundation and its mission, visit: 

Union intern Jaclyn Cammarata authored this report