The Philadelphia Union Academy’s U-15s advanced to the inaugural MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs defeating Austin FC in penalty kicks by a 3-1 margin. After battling to a scoreless draw, goalkeeper Andrew Rick made three saves in the shootout which was capped off by the winning finish from Matt Routzahn.
Head Coach Ryan Richter’s side dominated the opening half with the hot Texas sun blaring overhead. Forward Gael Medrano nearly made it 1-0 for the Boys in Blue off a dangerous free kick from outside the box but the left-footed blast crashed off a teammate.
Fellow forward Jaden Francis caused headaches for the Austin defense throughout the half with a pair of dangerous tackles in the 15th and 32nd minute. The first chance saw Francis collected a pass from Devon Decorte on the wing with a tackle inside the box that the referee deemed ball first. Later in the contest, Francis beat his marker but was taken down with a timely tackle just before unleashing a shot inside the six.
The Union’s pressure limited ATX to just one shot on frame in the first half with Rick making the save look easy to his right in the 39th minute.
As the temperature rose so did the pressure and intensity of the match as Austin FC grew into the contest. The Union defense stood strong with a big block against the Texas side off a corner kick just after the halftime whistle. The biggest scoring chance of the second half came off another set piece but for the Union as Alex Perez saw a dangerous header go wide late in the 65th minute that ultimately went to penalty kicks.
Trailing by a goal after the first round of penalties, Alex Perez tied up the contest with a left-footed blast to the keepers right. So began the save streak from Andrew Rick who make a diving save to his right to cap off the second round. Luke Zielinski make it 2-1 in favor of the Union right a shot to the keeper’s right to start off the next round and once more Rick came up huge with a stop to his left. After the Union’s next attempt was missed, Rick sent the crowd in Frisco into a frenzy with yet another save to his left that was followed up by Routzahn’s second-match winning penalty kick of the tournament.
Philadelphia Union U15s advance to play the winner of the quarterfinal contest between D.C. United and New England Revolution in the semifinals on Wednesday, June 30th. Kick off is set for 10:05 a.m. ET and the match will be streamed on MLSSoccer.com.