Academy opens MLS NEXT Season in Sweeping Fashion


On the first day of regular season matches in MLS NEXT play, the Philadelphia Union Academy dominated on Saturday, winning all their matches in sweeping fashion against Cedar Stars Academy of Monmouth. 

Playing in soggy conditions, Head Coach Peter McDonnell's U17s opened the season with a gritty 2-0 win in rainy conditions at the Capelli Sports Complex in New Jersey. Throughout the first half, both sides went toe-to-toe at both ends of the field looking for the opener. That would change soon after the second half kicked off as Diego Riccio opened the scoring in the 55th minute, closely followed by a second from Anise Saidi in the 60th minute. Henry Bernstein turned in a strong performance in the season opener, with darting runs and multiple scoring chances created.

The newly formed U16s squeaked out a 2-1 win over the Cedar Stars to get their season started. A brace from Gunnar Graham helped the Baby Snakes edge their way through their first-ever victory in MLS NEXT play. Though only scoring two goals, the team created multiple chances throughout the match. Head Coach Guillermo Hamdan Zaragoza was happy with the debut victory on the sidelines but will look to use the first match as an experience to build team chemistry by showcasing the talent that this team has for their inaugural season.

The U15s showcased in an impressive 6-0 win in Jersey, with Head Coach Henry Apaloo's side displaying the team's attacking talent. Lewis Dawley bagged an opening day brace while the offense was rounded out with debut goals from Malik Jackupovic, Sam Gallego, Ryan Hirschorn, and Tyler Gladstone that helped push the team ahead of the Cedar Stars. A dominant defensive showing from the Baby Snakes kept the Cedar Stars at bay while the team kept pushing on in attack. Overall, the entire team put in a fantastic performance, building confidence at the start of the season.

The shutouts kept rolling as the U14s showed how dominant they can be with a 7-0 thrashing and all-around stellar performance against the Stars. Colin Fulham recorded a two-goal afternoon while Jayden Kouadio, Timoni Gbalajobi, Javi Linares, and Chris Thompson all added their names to the score sheet. Lorenzo Tiu also had a strong game in attack, creating multiple opportunities for the Baby Snakes to push further ahead. Head Coach Phil Karn’s side put the pressure on the Cedar Stars throughout the match which became too much to handle as Union took the game out of reach.

The U13s completed the Union sweep in Northern New Jersey with a 5-0 performance on Saturday evening. Iain Heyward had an impressive game in attack scoring two goals. Also on the scoresheet were Isaiah Fowlkes, Joey Schottlander, and Sully Palazzari. Head Coach Willy Topp’s side was sharp from the start of the game as they opened the scoring in the fourth minute. The team was energetic and hungry to win, putting away the chances they created for a strong start to the season.

With the start of the 2023-24 campaign now behind them, Philadelphia Union seeks to build upon their results next weekend as all five teams face travel to Lancaster, Pennsylvania to take on the PA Classics. Be sure to stay turned to and the Academy's social media channels for streaming information closer to Matchday 2.