U16s QF win

Raheem Taylor-Parkes scores hat-trick as sub to lead U16s to 5-3 win

Winning is one of the best feelings out there. Winning in extra-time with one of your players scoring a hat-trick as a substitute? Even better.

That was the feeling that the Philadelphia Union Uunder-16s experienced after they beat the New England Revolution U16s 5-3 on Wednesday night on the Union’s training field.

The game was the part of the quarterfinals of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy playoffs after both teams advanced out of the group stages by winning their group. Because the Union were the higher playoff seed, they held home-field advantage over New England.

On paper, the game looked like it should have been a breeze for the Union, who beat the Revolution 2-0 back in September near the start of the regular season. In reality, the game was fought hard from start to finish as the Revolution seemed to have an answer for everything the Union did.

The game opened up with the Union dominating possession and the pace of play, finally scoring in the 12th minute after a first-time cross from Matthew Real found Jack Skahan wide-open and streaking to the far post where he made no mistake in heading it in.

After that, things turned sour pretty quickly for the Union as they were caught on the counterattack and the Revolution found the open man who knocked it into the goal to tie it at 1-1 after 20 minutes.

The Revs then scored again in the 32nd after one of their players was brought down in the box after Auston Trusty wrestled the ball away while being called for the foul. Andrew Verdi dove the right way but was unable to make the save as the Revs took a 2-1 lead into the half.

After halftime, the Union seemed to gain some life, bringing Justin McMaster and Alexander Soto on as subs. It was Soto who ended having the first impact on the game, gathering the ball about 30 yards out and hitting the crossbar. As the ball rebounded off the crossbar, it hit the back of the diving New England goalkeeper and bounced into the goal.

With the score tied at 2-2, the Union pushed their momentum until the 75th minute when Raheem Taylor-Parkes, another substitute that was made following the second goal, scored to make it 3-2 with five minutes left. Not to be outdone, the Revolution scored almost immediately after to bring the game level once more at 3-3. Regulation time ticked by until the referee blew the whistle and signaled for extra time.

With the U-16s only playing 40 minute halves, extra time consisted of two 10-minute halves and then penalty kicks if necessary.

The start of extra time was marred by both teams being utterly exhausted and struggling to get chances going. Then, in the 89th, just as the rain was starting to fall, Taylor-Parkes notched his second goal of the game, taking a pass from Tiger Graham down the wing and poking it past the oncoming goalkeeper. The first period of extra time ended shortly after that.

The second 10 minute period started a minute later with the Union keeping almost everyone back. McMaster and Taylor-Parkes did a good job of winning corners and keeping possession of the ball but the Revolution were pushing forward with more numbers and had a few chances on goal that Verdi had to save.

As time ticked down, the Revs were able to win a corner in the last minute of extra time and brought everyone up for it, including the goalkeeper. When they crossed the ball in, the Union headed it clear only for it to fall at the feet of Taylor-Parkes. He then won a foot race with every other player on the pitch and dribbled the ball coast-to-coast and knocked it into the goal for the hat-trick.

The whistle blew shortly after that and the Union won 5-3 after 100 minutes of play.

“We’re extremely proud to be able to represent the club in Los Angeles next week,” said head coach Jeff Cook after the game. “I’m really proud of the players response but along with that, I think New England had a fantastic game. As technical director Tommy Wilson said, it’s a great feeling as a coach to trust your team and it doesn’t happen every season, but this season I felt we could trust the players. I’m really proud of the players for being able to respond as they did and I think we’re worthy winners but New England pushed us all the way.”

The U-16s will now travel out to Carson, Calif. to play in the semifinals in the StubHub Center on July 16.

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