After nearly a full month without USL Championship action, Philadelphia Union II got back on the pitch and put together a strong effort but came up just short in a 2-1 loss to Atlanta United 2 on Wednesday night.
“A couple mistakes cost us a couple goals and there’s some things to learn there,” Philadelphia Union II interim Head Coach Marlon LeBlanc said following the match. “We had a lot of chances and some good attacks. We’re a very young team. We beat the record for the last game we played by putting an even younger team out than the last time. I thought the fight was great and if not the ball bouncing a little bit better for us maybe we could have gotten a result out of it but we were there till the end of it I told the boys I was proud.”
Playing under the Subaru Park lights, Union II saw its youngest starting XI in club history come out eager and press the ATL UTD2 defenders constantly in the opening 15 minutes of the contest. With nine of the starting 11 members of the Union Academy, they pressed their opponent on the backfoot early in the contest and nearly bagged the opening goal on a second effort from a set piece but the headed effort went wide.
Heavy legs showed themselves as the halftime whistled loomed as the visitors took a 1-0 lead with a heavy blast from Amadou Diop that beat Union Academy goalkeeper Mitchell Budler.
In the 52nd minute of the match, Philadelphia Union II and ATL UTD 2 players paused to recognize the ongoing battle for equality and inclusion in American society. From the start of the 52nd minute through 53:46 of the first half, both teams sought to highlight the need for social change. Players at other clubs have engaged in similar demonstrations in the USL Championship following the recent unveiling of the Black Player's Alliance. The Black Player's Alliance aims to help members educate and empower others to bring about positive change in their community.
Both sides traded chances as rain started in Chester with Atlanta scoring a needed insurance goal in the second minute of stoppage time on an effort from David Meija.
Union II didn’t back down as substitute and future Union homegrown Paxten Aaronson netted his first USL Championship goal with a curling effort that ATL UTD 2’s keeper was unable to handle. The Boys in Blue dominated play and nearly saw a late equalizer come to fruition off a set piece.
“I thought Paxten came on and immediately impacted the game, that’s what he can do,” LeBlanc said of the future homegrown. “As he continues to grow in the role that we’ve set up for him, I think he’s going to continue to do those things. I said to somebody yesterday that Paxten scores goals from the 10. You saw him do it again today. He created another chance and almost got the assist in the 97th minute on the last free kick but his quality speaks for itself. I don’t have to say too much more I think Paxten is going to be a big player.”
Union II continues a busy final stretch of the USL Championship slate with a three-game road trip that begins on Sunday, September 6th against the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Kick off from Al Lang Stadium is set for 7:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on ESPN+.