Preview | Union II kicks off MLS NEXT Pro campaign Sunday


Philadelphia Union II makes its debut in the brand new MLS NEXT Pro on Sunday afternoon as they play host to FC Cincinnati 2. Kick off from Subaru Park is set for 2 p.m. ET with the match streamed for free on Tickets for the inaugural match are available for purchase and are just $12.

Under the direction of Head Coach Marlon LeBlanc, Union II continues to serve as a providing ground on the club’s Pathway to the Pro. With select players expected to play from the first team due to MLS on a short break due to the FIFA International window, this weekend should provide opportunities for both Union II rostered players and exciting prospects from the Philadelphia Union Academy.

A quick look at the Union II roster sees a fresh influx of talent led by four strikers leading the way. 17-year-old Academy product Nelson Pierre could make his professional debut in the league opener and featured with the Union in Clearwater for a couple of preseason matches against MLS opponents. Chris Donovan and Stefan Stojanovic bring experience from the collegiate game and had impressive performances during Union II’s nine-week preseason with Stojanovic netting a brace in the finale against Queensboro FC’s U19 side. Also announced this week was the signing of Jose Riasco who at 18 already has scored five goals and added three assists last season with Deportivo La Guaira F.C. in the first tier Primera Division in Venezuela.

Union II’s midfield group features a trio of signed players from South American with Venezuelans Juan Perdomo and Maike Villero joined by Colombian Carlos Paternina. Perdomo, 21, comes from the Venezualan top league where he appeared in 43 matches prior to joining the squad. Fellow countryman Villero played for Atlético Venezuela C.F., where he scored one goal and one assist in 30 appearances as well. Announced on Thursday, Paternina brings an extra level of energy in the midfield as a No. 10 and comes from Evigado F.C. which has produced talent such as James Rodriguez, Fredy Guarin, and Juan Quintero.

20-year-old Nathan Nkanji is currently the only defender currently on the roster but made quite the impression for the technical staff. The versatile defender suited up against Union II in a preseason friendly with Florida Premier and was then brought on trial before signing his first professional contract on March 9. Nkanji won’t be along on the backline with the Union’s first team and Academy depth with the likes for homegrown Brandan Craig as well as Academy player Jackson Gilman featuring during preseason matches.

Between the sticks is 19-year-old Brooks Thompson who brings three years of professional experience. The goalkeeper was the youngest professional signing in Sporting Kansas City II history when he signed in March 2019 and made 12 appearances with the side.