Philadelphia Union’s academy executed a clean sweep over Virginia Development Academy in their second week of fixtures this season. The academy squads were once again playing at YSC on Saturday, their second consecutive set of home matches before a trip to Ukrainian Nationals for the U12s and to Richmond United for the other teams sees the Union face their first road tests of the young season.
Strong high pressure from the U13s helped them gain an early advantage and hold off VDA after running out to a three goal lead at halftime. Pressing far up the pitch can leave a team susceptible to poor spacing, but that was not an issue in the first half for the U13s. The pressing was less intense as the match wore on, but the ability to execute such a key concept in a real match points to a good mentality from the young academy players.
The U15s encountered an opponent determined to disrupt build-up play and force the goalie to distribute the ball by pressing the rest of the defenders when they received passes. Although this kept the match even for the first half-hour, the Union’s ability to close down the ball defensively in an organized manner meant that Virginia Development Academy could not get on the board. For this age group, recognition of the opponent’s plan and the ability to respond to it with creative solutions is a positive sign for future growth.
After a tight match against NYCFC last weekend, the U17s showed they are a team that can find offense from many sources. Luis Danny Flores struck a long winner to open the match up in the 32nd minute and Aboubacar Camara added a pair of goals — on a penalty from Flores’ run — four minutes apart in the second half. Julian Anderson partnered his impressive creative play with a big defensive effort that helped control Virginia’s transition attack.
And at the end of the day, the U19s continued to display grit as they went ahead, conceded, then got a winner from Tonny Temple to upend the VDA U19s. A big part of the early season matches for this age group is gaining a grasp of the different roles in the team and making them their own. That includes the substitutes, and all three who entered for the final twelve minutes of the match contributed by upping the tempo and turning in strong performances that helped lock in the result.
During these initial matches of the season, coaches will continue to look for a growth in understanding of roles and concepts, along with the ability to apply those ideas in real-time during live game situations. Philly’s academy model is built on the idea of preparing young players to make an impact on the first team or contribute to a top college program. With that in mind, look for these squads to continue adding new concepts to the mix as they become more familiar with each other and the level of competition around them.
A big test for the U15s and U17s will come in early October when the Union host the GA Cup at the Power Training Complex.