Philadelphia Union's academy has traveled south for the 2018 Winter Showcase in Florida, but many of their opponents will be arriving from the western half of the United States. The Winter Showcase pits the Union's Under-17s and U-19s against some of the top youth sides in the country, including the academies of Real Salt Lake, Seattle Sounders, and FC Dallas.
On Thursday, November 29, U-19s face off with Real Salt Lake. With a 3-3-3 record (18 goals scored, 18 conceded), RSL sits in the middle of the pack in the Southwest Division of the Western Conference. The Union are currently atop the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference with a +18 goal differential, and although both teams will be able to scout their opponents using shared video this will be a good test for the U-19s ability to control a game and force the opponent to bend to their will.
The U-19s will then take on Real Colorado who, with only seven goals conceded in 10 matches, boast one of the better defensive records in the country right now. The Showcase concludes for the 19s on Sunday when the 5-1-3 Seattle Sounders offer a heavyweight battle that should draw the attention of many of the college coaches at the Florida event.
"We're going to get three really hard teams," Academy Director Tommy Wilson admitted, "And there will be a lot of college coaches here to watch the boys.
"Overall, I hope they enjoy the experience and, win, lose or draw, perform the best they can."
Gary Lewis' Union U-17s begin their showcase on Friday with a matchup against a Vardar side that, while 4-4-0, has given up 20 goals in only eight matches this year. The U-17s have been on a tear in November with 11 goals scored and only one conceded in a four match run that began with a fairly dominating win over Red Bulls. Left-winger Jack de Vries has been in fine form and combining well with Julian Anderson and Patrick Bohui to power the attack. Danny Flores and Dante Huckaby have ensured the team retains a strong spine. On Saturday, the U-17s have an epic showdown with 10-0-1 Toronto FC, who have scored 48 goals already this season. The showcase concludes on Monday with 9-0-0 FC Dallas -- 39 goals scored and only three conceded -- and the Union, who are also 9-0-0 with 27 scored and four allowed, looking to hand each other a big loss.
Since facing Red Bulls at the start of November, Union academy teams have continued integrating aspects of Ernst Tanner's methodology into their play, and Tommy Wilson indicated that will continue at the showcase. "Look for small changes," he said. "Close teams in a little bit, some changes apparent on second balls.
"The boys will do anything, so we'll keep working and moving toward more of Ernst's methodology."
Keep checking PhiladelphiaUnion.com for more updates as the academy closes out the 2018 portion of its schedule.