The US Soccer Development Academy Summer Showcase is a chance for clubs from around the country to pit their young talent against opposition that, for largely geographical regions, they rarely face. Philadelphia Union’s U19 squad topped their round robin group with seven points, but fell 4-1 to LA Galaxy U19s in a quarterfinal matchup last night. Jeremy Rafanello, Tonny Temple, and Ben Ofeimu, who have all earned minutes with Bethlehem Steel this season, featured for the Union. However, highly touted prospects Brenden Aaronson and Issa Rayyan were absent through injury.
Those three Steel players have collected a total of 251 minutes at the USL level between them. In contrast, LA Galaxy brought over 1700 minutes worth of USL experience, a clear indication that their primary goal was to win rather than expose up and coming prospects to new competition. Those USL players made all the difference in the match, with wunderkind Efrain Alvarez (394 USL minutes) and budding star Ulysses Llanez (575 USL minutes) slicing through the right side of the Union defense throughout the match.
Llanez opened the scoring for the Galaxy before Tonny Temple (39 USL minutes), playing as a right winger, evened the match with a magical volley over Eric Lopez (270 USL minutes). A goalmouth scramble early in the second half finished with Aristotle Zarris pushing in the go-ahead goal, and though the Union created chances through Rafanello, Brisma, and Temple, they could not penetrate the Galaxy defense.
Los Angeles took over as the match became stretched, and Alex Mendez (317 USL minutes) added a third before Alvarez put a lid on proceedings with a sensational volleyed finish in the 80th minute.
The Union started four players that are still eligible for the U17 squad, and they did not bring three Union first team players that remain eligibile for the U19s: Mark McKenzie, Anthony Fontana, and Matthew Real. It was the U19s first loss under coach Kevin Coleman, but it came to a vastly more experienced side than they had previously faced.
Keep an eye out for Ofeimu and Temple is Steel colors in the near future. Many other players, such as Rafanello, Brisma, and Kuhn, also have bright futures and could return to the Union fold after spending time in college, following a trail blazed by McKenzie.