The Philadelphia Union Under-16’s have advanced into the quarterfinals of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy playoffs and will take on the New England Revolution U16s tomorrow at 5 p.m. at the Union Training Grounds in Chester, Pa.
The Union advanced out of their group after entering the playoffs as the No. 2 overall seed. They won every game they played, securing nine points from the three games. New England, on the other hand, were the unlikely winner in their group, beating Crew SC and the Capital Area RailHawks in their first two games even though both teams entered the playoffs as the higher seed.
The Union U16’s experienced a strong year, going 21-3-2 in the regular season. They also participated in other tournaments throughout the season, giving them experience with group stages and elimination games.
Going into the matchup tomorrow, head coach Jeff Cook had some positive things to say about his team.
“The U16’s have experienced a really strong season, particularly in the second half of the year since January,” Cook said. “I’ve been very pleased with our development, not only with the fact that we’ve been getting mostly positive results but I think that the quality of our play has improved as the year goes on.”
The team itself is stocked with talent, mostly made up of kids who have grown up in the greater Philadelphia area. Some of the standouts include Auston Trusty, the team’s captain and standout central defender, Andrew Verdi, the team’s all-star quality goalkeeper, and Justin McMaster and Tiger Graham, the offensive strikeforce for the U16’s.
While the Union enters tomorrow’s game as the favorite due to their higher seeding and home field advantage, New England is a dangerous opponent that is used to playing the role of underdog.
“As a coach, when I look at New England, I see a team that does not concede a lot of goals,” said Cook. “If you look at their league record, I think they only conceded 15 goals in 26 regular season games so I think they’re quite strong defensively. They’re a team that has good speed in their front three and they’re very, very good on the counterattack.”
The team has watched film from New England’s three games in Indianapolis and came away knowing that they must be careful in possession because this is a New England team that is relentless in chasing down the ball and forcing turnovers.
This will be the second time the two teams will be meeting this season after a regular season game played back in September – a game the Union won 2-0 behind goals from Alexander Soto and Jerren Nixon. While they have met before, the Union know that their game in September was 10 months ago, plenty of time for both teams to grow and change as the season progressed.
That being said, make no mistake, the Union U16’s are in it to win it and are looking to put on a show in the area in which they were raised.
“We’re hoping that we get the support of the Philadelphia soccer community tomorrow,” Cook said. “A vast majority of our players are from the Philadelphia community and the greater Philadelphia soccer community so we are benefitting from year and years of good work in the region to help produce these players. As a Union academy, we don’t take any of that for granted and we want to add to it but we know that we wouldn’t be where we are without so much good work from the people that have helped these guys at the younger ages develop and we’re just reaping the benefits.”
The winner of tomorrow’s game will advance to the semi-finals which are being held in Carson, Calif. at the StubHub Center on July 16-18.
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Contact Union writer Kyle Basedow at email@example.com.