Philadelphia Union Academy U19s kicked off their Winter Showcase today with a rousing 4-1 win against MLS foes Real Salt Lake, whom entered the match with a +37 goal differential and seven wins in eight matches.
The Union featured two players in the midfield returning to the city of their professional debuts with Bethlehem Steel FC in Brenden Aaronson and Michael Pellegrino. It was Pellegrino, in the first 10 minutes of the match, who neatly finished to put the Union up 1-0 and well on their way to complete performance.
Aaronson was cited by staff as being the best player on the pitch, tallying two goals and was a constant thread as the playmaker behind the Union’s front three. The team pressing from the U19s and their proactivity throughout the match threatened the Real Salt Lake defense, as the front three of Jeremy Rafanello, Issa Rayyan, and Tonny Temple generated several great opportunities which were capitalized on by decisive finishing. Rafanello, the team’s leading scorer, notched his 15th of the year in just his 12th game.
Coach Jeff Cook further cited the “rock solid” defending of Ben Ofiemu and Olu Ogunwale in central defense, and the “confidence and composure” of Tomas Romero in goal.
"This was a real test against a high-quality opponent, and one that will prove very important in the development of our players," Cook said. "The way the team played collectively with and without the ball was encouraging. We look forward to another challenging match tomorrow against Sporting Kansas City."
The Winter Showcase continues tomorrow with the U17s kicking off against Kendall SC, and the U19s taking on Sporting Kansas City.