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Union II continues to grow both on and off the pitch

Philadelphia Union II head coach Sven Gartung spoke with media for the first time since the USL Championship’s Return to Play announcement. His focus was not on the length of time the team had spent away from the pitch, but on the way they used the break in games to grow closer.

“There is always two sides to a story where you could be ‘why now, why is this happening’ but the other side tries to make the best out of it,” Gartung said. “If you want to have success, 50 percent is on the field and how you play and the other 50 percent is happening off the field with how the team is communicating and sticking together. We were able to work together via Zoom calls, we had Christian Pulisic speak with the team and we just tried to create a team environment to build relationships. We have players that don’t have relatives here or friends here so it was about us showing that they are part of this team and that we can be those close friends. We did a lot of things when we weren’t able to train and I think you’ll see that on the field soon.”

On the field, Union II has been active for the past several weeks with individual and small group training sessions in Delaware that recently gave way to the team’s first work in months at the Power Training Complex in Chester. Unlike the first team however, Gartung’s side is still waiting for its first full-team session, the head coach expects that this week he will finally be able to run a full training.

Over the nearly four month break, the USL side has seen Philadelphia Union Academy players graduate, and Tyger Evans, who had been starting at left back, departed the club to enroll at Penn State University. With first team players unable to join the side, the depth at left back appears thin. Gartung, however, argued he has plenty of options in his squad.

“I have to make a plan and come up with a solution,” Gartung said when asked about the position. “There is one left fullback coming up from the Academy but I also have someone who can play different positions so I’m not too worried about that specific position.”

That player is former Duke University standout Issa Rayyan. The Academy graduate, who signed with Union II last season, is well known for his versatility and has started in nearly every spot on the pitch.

The USL Championship’s to expansion from three to five substitutions per match is something that Gartung is looking forward to using when the season resumes on July 11.

“I said at the beginning of the season that I’m not going to make a substitution in the 87th or 88th minute to keep a result or hoping that something miraculous will happen,” he said. “I’m going to make changes soon so that we can continue to develop these players and that they get match time. I’m sure I’m going to use five subs in these matches.”

With the expanded substitutions, Union II fans will get the opportunity to see the potential debut of newly-signed David Rabadan, but Gartung notes that he doesn’t expect other fresh faces to join his side. As the call concluded, Gartung noted that the club is training with 25-26 players per day and, with strict health protocols, there won’t be many opportunities in the foreseeable future to add other players from the Union Academy.

Union II is slated to resume it’s 2020 USL Championship campaign the weekend of July 11th and will play within Group F in the league’s updated season format. For more information on the league’s new return to play format, click here. A full schedule for the Union II season will be released by the league in the near future.

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