Nobody likes to lose, but when you go six games undefeated, climb into a playoff position, and only lose after giving the league leaders everything they can handle at home… yeah, you can walk away with your head held high.
Union II fell 2-0 to Columbus Crew 2 last weekend, but they were down a man by the time the Eastern Conference’s best side started to roll. Union II was also light on bodies since they were playing on the same day as Philadelphia Union.
This weekend, Union II faces another critical top-of-the-table matchup against RNY FC. Along with Inter Miami II, Union II and RNY FC are fighting for the final two Eastern Conference playoff spots, and with Miami II facing TFC II this is a huge weekend in the race for the postseason.
RNY FC finally broke a winless slump that lasted over a month by knocking off New England Revolution II last weekend. During that tough run, RNY FC didn’t shut out a single opponent, undermining the team’s defensive strength. The New York-based club still has the second-best defensive record in the east, and they smothered Revs II in a throwback performance on Saturday.
Union II’s recent breakout has been driven by their ability to find goals from people all over the pitch, and continuing that will be crucial given RNY’s solidity. Marlon LeBlanc’s side will likely have Jesus Bueno and Matt Real available, and both players have been flexing on the competition over the past month. Real translated that fine form into a goal for the Union against Colorado Rapids last weekend and continues to show he can provide an attacking spark up the left side of the pitch.
In the end, this match will likely come down to whether one of these two defenses can put together a consistent 90 minutes. Philly’s core is young and extremely talented, with Brandan Craig, Cole Turner, Nathan Nkanji, Anton Sorenson, and Frank Westfield showing off their abilities this year. That youth comes with a caveat, which is that young players with such talent are really just trying to tap into their top form 90 minutes at a time instead of in 15, 30, or 45-minute spurts.
If the Union II defense closes up shop, they could finish the weekend in second place.