Today, on the Philadelphia Union’s practice field, the Philadelphia U-18 academy team fell 2-1 to Reading United A.C., the Union’s player development club.
Multiple players from Reading have previously featured in the U-18 academy team including University of Virginia star Darius Madison and Georgetown University’s Brett Campbell.
The game started well for the U-18’s, scoring in the first five minutes thanks to Sebastian Elney, who will play for the University of Maryland next year. He was able to make the most of a ball put into the box and put it in the back of the net despite it bouncing around after he received it. Elney’s goal was made more impressive by the fact that he was playing with a large foam covering on his wrist due to a recent sprain.
The rest of the first half went about as well as they could have hoped for, with the team alternating their defensive strategy between high pressure and low pressure. The first 15 minutes saw the players chasing down every ball and not letting the Reading players get more than two touches. This worked well as it caused Reading some early issues and lead to the goal being scored. The next 15 were dedicated to a low pressure approach, which they executed well. The final minutes of the half saw them switch back to a high pressure system in order to try to get another goal.
“I thought our work on the pressing scheme came off quite good today, and it also showed we still have some work to do with it,” head coach Peter Fuller said. “I thought the guys did a good job, particularly the first group, and overall. The first group, the first 45 minutes I thought was excellent. Going forward into next week our focus is on getting guys sharper and getting better, getting guys more and more comfortable with themselves and making sure out speed of play is right because all three teams in our group will force us to play quickly.”
Fuller then made a full line change at the half, sending out all eleven players who were on the bench for the first half, including Yosef Samuel and Derrick Jones.
The second half did not go nearly as well for the team as they struggled to press the same way that the first half team was able to. Being unable to press lead to Reading having much more time on the ball and were able to pick out passes and eventually place a cross into the box which was headed home on the far post.
Will Campbell, a University of North Carolina commit, was subbed on half way into the second half after playing in the first half. At this time, Samuel was moved into a center-forward position in a switch from the left wing. Neither of these two changes worked for the team as Reading scored a second goal, this time on a well-balanced counterattack.
In his post game talk with the players, Fuller said that he has no favorites on the team and will put the best 11 players out there that can best represent the club.
Fuller will pick the 18 players who will travel to the US Soccer Development Academy Playoffs in Indiana on Friday. They face the U-18 teams for the Montreal Impact, the LA Galaxy and Kendall SC in group play which begins on Tuesday, June 23.