In a rivalry weekend filled with exciting matches, Philadelphia Union’s academy teams got the better of New York Red Bulls. Playing both at the YSC fields and at Talen Energy Stadium, the Union showed that their possession-based, ball movement-heavy system could neuter Red Bulls’ pressing.
A big and fast Red Bulls side ran headlong into well-organized Union U13 team Saturday morning. Phil Karn’s boys scored three times on the counterattack, with Jack Andrus setting the offensive tone. The Union U13s continue to show growth in how they approach and manage matches, and sticking to their principles against such a physical opponent could mark a significant step in their growth.
In a tight, back-and-forth showdown, the Union U15s and Red Bull U15s sought to determine the best ways to utilize the spaces provided by Talen Energy Stadium’s sizable pitch. Head Coach Chris Brewer continually asked his defense to hold a high line as Red Bulls’ countered with speed any time they secured a turnover. Ian Abbey provided a threat up the right for the Union, charging into space and dropping a cross into the box that had to be pushed over for a corner kick. Meanwhile, Sam Jones was excellent at the center of defense for Philly, dominating in the air.
Union striker Nelson Pierre was ambitious as he looked to score from his own half early. New York responded with a free kick from the left that struck the bar, and Philly immediately countered through Million Evans, who released Pierre over the top. The attacker forced a big save from Ciaran Dalton in goal.
Red Bulls’ attacks consisted almost entirely from turning the Union over high up the pitch, often off of throw-ins. In goal, Owen Moore had to be vocal and alert to ensure his side got into the half with an even scoreline.
In the second half, Evans hit the bar before Abbey was replaced by Zion Scarlett. The lanky attacker finally broke the deadlock late in the match as things looked to be trending Red Bulls’ direction in a match filled with transitions.
Red Bulls went ahead of the Union U17s early but Gary Lewis’ team grew into the match and had fully asserted themselves by the end. New York got on the board with a low corner kick to the front post that was punched in past Lukas Burns.
While this gave Red Bulls the advantage, they would need more to hold on to a win with Patrick Bohui, Jack de Vries, Julian Anderson, and Danny Flores all at the top of their games.
Bohui was a constant menace through the center and de Vries’ vicious left foot was more than Red Bulls could handle.
The Union opened their scoring from the penalty spot after center back Dante Huckaby was fouled competing for a loose ball in the box. Flores, playing an all-action role in the center of the park, drove home the spot kick. de Vries was next up, taking a high turnover and weaving up the left before powering home to the far corner. Bohui added a third before the first half ended. Flores played a quick free kick down the left channel to Anderson and the playmaker picked out Bohui’s run through the center. The striker’s finish was simple and well-deserved for a hard-working first half.
Bohui also attempted a bicycle kick following Anderson’s mazy run up the endline, and he nearly had another when he collected the ball inside the six yard box, deked a defender, and attempted to chip the goalie from close range. The ball bounced wide, however, ending the opportunity for a Sportscenter Top 10 moment.
In the second half, Flores picked off a pass deep in Red Bulls territory and wove through defenders into the box. He cut back for de Vries’ hard run to the center and the winger knocked home the Union’s fourth as he was rocked by contact.
The Union unleashed Ben Ofeimu, Brenden Aaronson, and Selmir Miscic on Red Bulls in the clubs’ U19s matchup, and the result was extremely one-sided. Aaronson was the best player on the pitch, though the rest of the Union 19s were not far off his pace. After Samuel Epitime opened the scoring for Red Bulls in the eighth minute, Philly quickly grew into the match and Tony Antek equalized with a stellar shot from distance into the corner of the net. Not to be outdone, winger Axel Picazo drove home a similar effort in the 40th minute to put Philly on top.
Immediately after the halftime whistle, Aaronson took over. The recent Union first team signee, who will join the club’s first team in January 2019, swept into the box with a late run, gathering the ball off his chest and drilling it home to extend the home side’s lead.
15-year old Selmir Miscic, who signed with Bethlehem Steel this season, came on in the second half and made an instant impact. Collecting the ball and spinning toward the box, he and Aaronson created a 2v1 just outside the New York area. Miscic’s first pass to Aaronson was blocked, but he gathered it and played the attacker in once more and Aaronson made no mistake with the finish.
Miscic got his own goal later, weaving into the box, playing a wall pass once there, and smacking a curled effort against the far side netting. It was a brilliant play and highlighted the Union’s superior technical ability against a physical opponent.
The Union are back at YSC for all matches next weekend as they welcome Players’ Development Academy teams to town.