The Union U17s, featuring one of the most consistent and composed backlines in the country and dynamic wing play, took a 22-man squad to Tampa for the Development Academy Winter Showcase, and gave a start to everyone on the roster. Coached by Gary Lewis, the U17s' seven points earned in three matches concluded the first half of the season, one that also saw them atop the Generation adidas Cup Eastern Regional table, an event exclusive for the MLS Academies.
Philadelphia Union 0 - 0 Sockers FC
The U17s kicked off their tournament against Chicago’s Sockers FC, the No. 1 team in the Midwestern Division. While a very organized opponent, the Union were able to create a few quality chances that culminated in a volley from Nick Blacklock late that almost secured the three points. Instead, yet another clean sheet for the Union U17s ensured the hard-earned point. Cole Turner drew plaudits for his performance in the midfield, where he displayed an outstanding range of passing.
Philadelphia Union 4 - 2 Seattle Sounders FC
Selected as a showcase match, the U17s' second match was broadcast live as they took on another first-place team, Seattle Sounders FC. The event drew special interest, with the stands filled with college coaches and key figures like U.S. U17 Head Coach John Hackworth and MLS Technical Director of Player Youth & Development, Player Personnel Fred Lipka.
The first fifteen minutes were dour for the Union, as the Sounders notched two early goals. However, a resilient display saw the Union take control of the match. Coach Gary Lewis highlighted the impact that the central midfield of Marco Bla, Cole Turner, and Julien Anderson had in taking control of midfield.
“They gave us a platform to utilize our exciting wide players, with Axel Picazo mesmerizing the defense with speed and dribbling qualities,” Lewis said.
On the opposite wing, Nick Blacklock offered a change of pace with his creativity on-and-off the ball, and finished a crucial free kick that tied up the match. Up top, it was striker Aboubacar Camara who grabbed a hat-trick with three clinical finishes, including a particularly scintillating strike from outside the box to complete the three-goal performance, the comeback, and the 4-2 victory.
Philadelphia Union 4 - 1 Sporting Kansas City
The final match of the Showcase again paired the Union U17s with an MLS foe and high-quality side in Sporting Kansas City. The side’s penchant for cohesive defensive performances was again a feature as the Union’s backline of J.D. Wagner, Ian Graham, Donovan Wu, and A.J. Cousins put in excellent performances in front of goalkeeper Eoin Gawronski. Coach Lewis also identified the crucial work of Antek Sienkiel in disrupting Sporting in the midfield with a high energy performance. Goals from Matt Myers, Axel Picazo, Shanyder Borgelin, and Mike McKeown comprised a comprehensive offensive effort for the Union, and capped off what Coach Lewis described as a “fantastic developmental weekend."