This weekend marked a momentous occasion as our Philadelphia Union Academy launched our first-ever fall season with a weekend full of games against MLS competition. We were fortunate enough to host the Chicago Fire, NY Red Bulls, and DC United U-16 academy teams, as well as the Red Bulls U-18 team, here in Philadelphia.
Our Union Academy U-16's, coached by Phil Karn, played against the Chicago Fire on Friday night at YSC in a game that was a tale of two halves. Chicago dominated possession and took a 1-0 lead into the halftime as we struggled to adapt to their ball movement and formation. After addressing these issues at halftime, our boys responded with a solid second half performance capped off by Colton Amidon’s goal to tie the game at 1-1.
On Sunday at Robert Urban Field, our U-16's played against a very tough New York team that defeated Chicago 3-2 the day before. After absorbing some early pressure, goals from Mike Desiderio and Taylor Dempsey gave the Union a 2-0 lead before a goal for NY in the last minute of the half took us into halftime leading 2-1. In the second half, NY put a lot of pressure on our back line and took advantage of their opportunities to come away with a 4-2 win. Throughout the weekend, the Union U-16's received strong performances from Amidon, Desiderio, Ryan Talbot, Zach Zandi, and Harry Roche.
PHOTOS: Union U-16's vs. Red Bulls
Our Union Academy U-18's, coached by Jim Curtin, played against the Red Bulls on Saturday afternoon at YSC in a game where both teams played at a high level. Darius Madison scored both goals for the Union U-18's as we never trailed in the match. Credit to NY for continuing to attack as they answered both our goals to secure a 2-2 draw. The Union received strong performances from Madison, Todd Pratzner, Alex Murphy, Joe Farrell, and Chris Ramirez.
PHOTOS: Union U-18's vs. Red Bulls
Regardless of the results, it was great for our players to play against high level competition and I am extremely proud of our players and coaches for their performance. The best way for our youth to develop is to subject them to a quality soccer environment that will expose weaknesses they would normally get away with. This weekend, many of our players learned valuable soccer lessons that will help their growth. However, the bigger lesson learned was that they are good enough to compete with the best teams in the country. This will continue to be our academy’s standard for every game we play from here on out.
MLS Cup champion and two-time MLS All-Star Alecko Eskandarian serves as Philadelphia Union's Youth Technical Director. Follow him on Twitter at @Alecko11.