Philadelphia Union II has earned a spot in the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro playoffs!
Head Coach Marlon LeBlanc’s squad punched their ticket by finishing out their regular season schedule with an hard fought battle through the elements. They emerged from Sunday's matinee with a 3-1 win against New York Red Bulls on the road. With the victory, Philadelphia Union completed a successful three game season sweep against their foe from down 1-95.
The team is seeded 7th after Sunday’s results around the league – stay tuned to find out who their first opponent will be!
The game started slow as both teams worked to find their footing during the constant downpour. Even as the weather bared down on them, both teams fought for opportunities, but it was Union II who found the back of the net first.
Forward Jeremy Rafanello earned a free kick in the 20th minute, placing it perfectly for the score. The ball curled past New York’s defense and snuck just past 16-year-old keeper Alan Rutkowski, landing in the goal for a Philadelphia lead.
Despite three attempts after the Union score, New York couldn’t match the score. Instead, Philadelphia found another, making it 2-0 just before the second half.
In the 46th minute during stoppage time, Philadelphia centerback Hugo Le Guennec scored his first ever Union II goal, maintaining the momentum. David Vazquez attempted to sneak the ball past New York defenders, but it was deflected, and while trying to clear it out, the ball landed in Le Guennec’s path. The 23-year-old Frenchman didn’t hesitate and booted it from far outside the box to the top left corner of the net, far out of Rutkowski’s reach.
The intensity continued in the second half with opposing centerback Davi Alexandre earning a yellow card in the 49th minute.
Union II continued to pour on the attack, and Rafanello nearly earned a brace off a second free kick, this time hitting the post.
Even through the nonstop rain and wind, New York didn’t give up without a fight, finding a goal of their own in the 73rd minute. Defender Juan Mina moved past Philadelphia Union’s defense to boot the ball into the box, finding forward Julian Hall who kicked it past a diving Andrew Rick at close range.
The goal was the only Philadelphia allowed, maintaining the lead through the remainder of the game. In the 90+2nd minute, midfielder David Vazquez sealed the deal with a left footed shot assisted by Juan Castillo.
LeBlanc’s squad claimed a win when it matters most, advancing to the playoffs for the second year in a row. They are one of only two Eastern Conference teams to earn back-to-back appearances.