A wild, tightly contested set of GA Cup qualifiers finished with Philadelphia Union's U17 squad atop their group with two wins and a shootout loss.
The 17s opened against Sporting Kansas City and dominated the pace of play but couldn't unlock Kansas City's defense. Adjustments after halftime kept Philadelphia on top, and in the 89th minute, the team's always-on mentality paid off with Anthony Washington's winner.
Seattle got a similarly strong defensive performance from their group to hold the Union to a 1-1 draw before nabbing an extra point in the shootout, 4-2. The Union again used their energy to control the game, even though they were coming off a 24 hour turnaround. The Sounders netminder stood tall throughout, though, and a winner never materialized for Philly.
The lesson of the Seattle match: Never stop pushing. In the final qualifying match against San Jose, CJ Olney put Philly up before the half-hour mark but the Quakes rolled back to take a 2-1 lead after a penalty early in the second half. The Union were the better team though, and they were determined to prove it. With the Quakes fading late, Neil Pierre and David Vazquez knocked home goals in the 81st and 84th minutes to deliver a well-earned victory and leave the Union on top of their group.
Next up for the 17s are a set of friendlies in late January and early February before a return to MLS NEXT play against Real Jersey on February 18th.