The fall season ended this past weekend for the Union academy and all three teams look poised to make a postseason run in 2015. The running theme? Defense.
Each team is allowing one goal or less per game, with both the U18s and U16s in the top five for goals allowed throughout their entire respective leagues.
Not coincidentally, it’s leading to wins.
Leading the way are the U16s and U14s, who both have winning percentages at or above .750. The U18s have been no slouch either, though, gaining at least one point in 82 percent of their games. The two elder teams wrapped up their respective fall seasons with a pair of wins over Continental FC DELCO. The U14s finished with a 7-0 win over Pa. Classics on Nov. 14.
Among the other highlights this season has been a certain appearance from this former Manchester United and Everton manager:
Philadelphia Union U18s
Through 11 games, the U18s are 6-2-3, good for 21 points and third place (out of 10 teams) in the Atlantic Division. Overall they sit in 16th place (out of 77 teams), roughly three points ahead of the wild card line (teams are ranked by points per game).
The team has been paced by exceptionally stingy defense. They’ve allowed just six goals on the season, best in the Atlantic Division and second best in the entire league (Montreal has allowed four). It’s been particularly impressive lately as the U18s posted four consecutive clean sheets – including a 0-0 draw with unbeaten New York Red Bulls – until it was snapped this past Saturday.
Offensively, it’s been a balanced attack with eight different players scoring 17 goals.
Philadelphia Union U16s
While the defensive prowess carries down to the U16s, the team has just been just as good on the offensive end en route to a dominating 10-1-0 start to the season with a +26 goal differential. With 30 points, the team is in second place in the Atlantic Division and third place overall in the league.
They started the season on a nine-game winning streak in USSDA play. That was briefly interrupted for the first round of the 2014-15 Generation Adidas Cup in October where the team played two games, both of which went to penalties – they split the two results. The second round will pick up in Orlando in February.
Nine different players have scored 32 goals this season for the U16s.
Also of a particular highlight this season was the inclusion of three players at the U.S. Soccer U-15 camp in Carson, Calif.
Philadelphia Union U14s
But if you’re looking for goals, look no further than the U14s. In 12 games this year, the team has scored four goals or more in seven contests and finished the fall season 9-2-1. They’ve scored 44 goals on the season and have 14 in their last two games.
“The team has competed strongly during training and games, and the commitment to playing aggressive, creative soccer has been consistent,” head coach Chris Brewer said. “Overall the team is progressing and is capable of playing at a high level, and more importantly we are pleased that individual players are showing definitive signs of improvement and are learning what it takes to be a young professional.”
Head coach Chris Brewer has done a good job managing a full squad of 28 players. In such a short period, the coach has given 26 players at least one start.
“Part of the responsibility of the U14 program is to help introduce and acclimate our young players to the Philadelphia Union culture,” Brewer said. “We have brought in many players who are new to the program this season; in this regard we are pleased with their progress on the field.”
Although they’ve been dominant on the field, Brewer is still pushing for improvement. Along with his staff, they’ll meet with each player and their families to discuss their strengths and weaknesses over the winter break. And then it’s time to go to work before the spring seasons starts on March 7.
“The message that the players receive from us in the academy is that this is a race to the first team,” Brewer said. “So the information we provide them for these periods is geared to their individual needs for when they do arrive at the next level, they will be prepared for success.”
The academy has 78 players for the 2014-15 season. There are 19 players for the U18s, 31 players for the U16s and 28 players for the U14s.
The U18 team has 10 African-Americans, six Caucasians, and three Hispanics. The U16s have 15 Caucasians, nine African-Americans, five Hispanics and two “others.” The U14s have 10 African-Americans, nine Caucasians, seven Hispanics and two “others.”
In total, 39 percent of the academy is African-American, 37 percent is Caucasian, 19 percent is Hispanic and 7 percent is “other.”