Both Philadelphia Union and New York Red Bulls lean heavily on their academies to produce players that know how to play the clubs’ systems when they arrive in MLS. The Red Bulls academy may have had a head start, but 2018 showed that the Union have closed the gap and now have a strong pipeline of talent flowing from the academy, through USL, and into the first team. Auston Trusty, Mark McKenzie, Matt Real, Derrick Jones, and Anthony Fontana all made an impact at the MLS level this season, with Brenden Aaronson and Selmir Miscic not far behind. New York, of course, has academy standouts Tyler Adams and Sean Davis in midfield, and Derrick Etienne, Jr., Florian Valot and others put in time both in the first eleven and off the bench throughout the season.
And while the Red Bulls finished above the Union in the MLS standings, both clubs are looking to improve their rosters in the future by drawing on two of the top academies in the country.
The academy teams met last weekend, with the Under 15s, 17s, and 19s all playing at Talen Energy Stadium. Behind organized, patient, and mature performances from many top academy players, the Union swept Red Bulls aside. The 15s won 1-0, the 17s got a 4-1 win, and the 19s did even better with a 5-1 victory.
Those wins are important because New York’s strong academy provides a good litmus test for the Union’s own future stars. The wins were also a lot of fun to watch, and the young players that hope to one day step into Talen Energy Stadium with the first team made sure to enjoy their moment on the big stage.
One question, though, remains outstanding: Who scored the best goal?
There were ten Union goals total, but the first goal for the U17s was off a penalty kick (Dante Huckaby earned it, Danny Flores tucked it home). Leaving that one aside, let’s look at the other nine.
First, the U15s and U17s. In the video below, you’ll see four goals.
- Scarlett - U15: This is U15 attacker Zion Scarlett’s late winner from the left. Watch how the Union regain possession and spread the field, using width to create space for their finishers against a compact Red Bull side.
- Bohui - U17: Patrick Bohui should be on your radar. The speedy striker/winger has incredible feet, a bullet shot, and is learning how to use his intelligence to overcome opposition when his speed can’t do it alone. On this goal, all he has to do is make the right run after Danny Flores picks out Julian Anderson off a restart. Bohui was a force throughout this contest.
- de Vries - U17: Jack de Vries is a fast, physical left winger for the U17s, and he was too much for New York to handle on Saturday. On this goal, he collects the ball on the left, leaves his markers behind, and rockets a finish into the far side netting.
- de Vries - U17: Jack de Vries again. This time it’s Danny Flores with a smart interception and hard drive into the box that sets up de Vries to stuff the ball home.
Now the U19s. After giving up an early goal off a corner kick, the 19s — led by Union homegrown signing Brenden Aaronson — played their opponents off the pitch.
- Antek - U19: Tony Antek pulled Philly even with this laser-guided strike from the top of the box. This match was defined by Red Bulls’ desire to put numbers atop the box to slow down Aaronson and his teammates. It worked for a while, but then the Union showed they were just too good in the final third to be stopped.
- Picazo - U19: Axel Picazo is a 1v1 nightmare for defenders, but on this play he introduces New York to his sizzling shot. Unstoppable.
- Aaronson - U19: Aaronson was a menace all day, spreading the ball around, moving in and out of spaces, and proving an impossible mark. Just after the halftime whistle, he darted into the box with a late run and finished the play with the calmness of a player that has scored professional goals before.
- Aaronson - U19: Around the same time that Aaronson signed a homegrown contract with the Union, 15-year old Selmir Miscic joined up with Bethlehem Steel. Miscic is a heady mix of intelligence, guile, and confidence, and after he came on as a substitute he linked up with Aaronson to give the homegrown his second goal of the game. Wonderful finish from the Jersey native.
- Miscic - U19: Remember — Selmir Miscic is playing against guys 2+ years older than him. That doesn’t bother the winger, though, and his weaving run, complete with a wall pass in the box, sets up a patient left-footed finish. Big things to come from Steel FC’s young attacker.