A shootout loss always hurts. But Union II head coach Marlon LeBlanc may be more frustrated by the late goal his club gave up in regulation time.
The Union club philosophy is grounded in mentality, and that means focusing for 90 minutes and wearing opponents down so they don’t have the energy to respond late. As that philosophy takes root and his team develops, LeBlanc will expect them to close up shop as the clock winds down.
NYCFC II, then, offers a great test for a talented, young roster. Nobody has scored more than the Yankee Stadium-based franchise, and they have both allowed and taken three penalty kicks which puts them in the league lead in both categories. This team plays wild games, but they do it with skill; Philly will look to disrupt this flow and go the other way in a hurry.
Key to controlling the match will be defending from the front. New signing Jose Riasco came on after Union II was down to ten men which limited his ability to impact the match. With Chris Donovan, Carlos Paternina, Bajung Darboe, Nelson Pierre, and Riasco able to step in up top, LeBlanc has many options as he looks to find consistency in attack.
Defensively, Union II will need to keep eyes on John Denis, Jonathan Jimenez, and Jack Beer, all of whom have multiple goals this year. With the Union MLS squad on the road at Nashville May 1, Union II will once again be relying mainly on their own roster rather than on Union players. This should provide some continuity as the club locks in an aggressive, complex defensive style that requires the full team to keep their defensive shape and break out quickly to keep the opponent from committing bodies forward.
A Saturday afternoon kickoff provides a wonderful platform for Union fans to catch the next generation of talent coming up the path to the pros. Make your way to Subaru Park at 4:00 p.m. ET on April 30 or tune in at MLSNEXTPro.com as Union II and NYCFC II go head to head.