With a playoff spot on the line, Philadelphia Union II conclude the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro regular season with a trip to take on New England Revolution II on Sunday afternoon.
Kick off from Gillette Stadium is set for 3:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, September 18th with the match streamed for free on MLSNEXTPro.com.
With one match remaining in the inaugural MLSNEXTPro season, only one Eastern Conference playoff spot is locked in. Behind Columbus, RNY FC, TFC II, Philadelphia Union II, Inter Miami II, and NYCFC II are all eyeing three postseason berths. And while TFC II faces a fading Orlando City B, NYCFCII and RNY FC matchup against each other and Union II travels for a difficult test at New England Revolution II.
An exciting and synchronized conclusion to the MLSNEXTPro season is set to kick off at 3:00 p.m. ET on September 18, with all matches streamed on MLSNEXTPro.com.
For Union II, this is a particularly slippery slope to climb. Bolstered by Philadelphia Union’s homegrowns and young talent like Jesus Bueno and Chris Donovan, Marlon LeBlanc’s side will be missing many of these contributors, leaning on the bright but raw Jose Riasco, Nelson Pierre, and Nathan Nkanji instead.
These players have what it takes to knock off Revolution II, but maintaining a high level across 90 minutes is no easy task on the road. LeBlanc may be able to call on Jeremy Rafanello and Richard Odada, but he’ll likely have to squeeze the best out of an inexperienced group to hang onto his playoff position.
Key to Union II’s success will be playing against the ball in a tight shape. There is no better equalizer in soccer than control of the space on the pitch, so remaining organized can stuff the Revs II build up and prevent top scorer Marcos Domingos Dias from getting involved.
No matter what happens, it’s worth reflecting on how far Union II has come in the second half of the season. After dropping points late in matches throughout the first few months, they have shot up the standings by integrating Union players with a core group that has upped their mental focus even as the strain of a professional season has taken its toll.
All of that work went toward putting the squad in position to control their own destiny on MLSNEXTPro Decision Day.