GA Cup | Jamir Johnson’s winner sends U17s into Quarterfinals


Philadelphia Union U-17’s persistence paid off as Jamir Johnson scored a 58th-minute game-winning goal to defeat South Korean side Jeonbuk.

After two days of preparation for the matchup against the Korean side, the U17s were eager to get the opening goal with a pair of chances within the first 120 seconds. Captain Anisse Saidi earned the first chance with a shot inside the box that was blocked in front of goal. After strong work at the back regained possession, the Boys in Blue got the ball at the feet of Cavan Sullivan at the edge of the 18. The 14-year-old quickly found an inch of space and hit a left-footed strike that crashed off the post.

Both sides settled into the contest with long spells of possession that produced no real threats to either defense. That came to an end in the 17th minute as Sullivan slowed the pace on the left side. As the defense rested for a half second on their heels, he shot a pass inside to Jamir Johnson for a one-timer that went just over the far post.

The Union attack generated four first-half corner kicks but their final one nearly produced the opening goal for Jeonbuk. With nearly all of the Baby Snakes pushed into the box, a quick clearance saw the Korean side launch a counter attack at the feet of their dangerous playmaker Seokjin Han. Zackary Mastrodimos came up not once but twice with clutch tackles at the edge of the 18 to prevent a shot on goal.

The Union continued to test the well organized opposition in the second half from set piece with Diego Rocio taking a free kick chance from just outside the edge of the 18 intended for goal that crashed off the wall. In the 45th minute the set piece chances nearly resulted in the opening goal as Kellan LeBlanc connected with Philadelphia Union II center back Neil Pierre for a smashing header that was tipped over the bar by the keeper.

Head Coach Peter McDonnell overhauled his right side of the lineup in the 47th minute as Lennon Harrington and Henry Bernstein with the duo continuing to limit Han’s touches. The 54th minute saw the Union kept throwing haymakers for the goal with Pierre heading down a ball in the box right into the path for Sullivan that was blocked. The ensuing corner kick saw a perfectly placed ball served into the box for an open Sullivan who broke free for a header but it was briefly punched clear. The ball bounced to the top of the box into the path of Mastrodimos but the shot went wide.

Philly’s set piece persistence finally paid off in the 58th minute as again it was Pierre winning the ball in the box and putting it at the feet of his teammates. After a half clearance to prevent a shot, Lennon Harrington intercepted the pass and dropped a perfectly placed cross to the far post where Johnson timed his run for the finish.

Jeonbuk didn’t go down without a fight as they tested the Union defense with barely any time left in the contest. Goalkeeper Gavin Atkinson was ready as he used all of his 6’4” frame to make a diving stop to his right to see propel the U17s futher in their GA Cup defense.

With the win, the Union will face off against Croatia’s HNK Hajduk Split who secured their Quarterfinal spot via a penalty shootout win over New York Red Bulls. The match will take place Friday afternoon with kick off set for 5PM ET.

U15s battle Chicago, fall in penalties

As for the U-15s, Head Coach Henry Apaloo’s side started its run in the Premier Bracket with a 1-1 draw against Chicago Fire but fell in penalty kicks, 3-0, on Thursday.

Forward Malik Jakupovic continued is strong form in the event, scoring a golazo in the 23rd minute of play. Philadelphia's quick attacking style forced a tactical foul by the Fire that presented the Baby Snakes with a high quality chance from just outside the 18. Jakupovic stepped up and ripped a left-footed shot around the wall and into the back of the net to put the Union ahead.

Chicago came out in the second half on the front foot and quickly found an equalizer three minutes after the final 30-minute period kicked off. Both teams exchanged chances for a potential game winner in the final dozen minutes but the match ultimately decided with kicks from the penalty spot. At the shootout, Chicago's keeper turned in a spectacular performance with saves in all three rounds to see the Windy City side take the match.

The U15s are back in action Friday with a 12PM ET kick off scheduled against the Columbus Crew.

GA Cup Day 4