Philadelphia Union II returns home to Subaru Park as they host the conference leading Columbus Crew 2 in MLS NEXT Pro competition that will be featured as the league's Game of the Week.
After seven matches, Philadelphia Union returned to the win column last Sunday in Orlando with a wild 3-1 victory that highlighted what a fun and unpredictable time a MLS NEXT Pro match can be.
After a scoreless first half, Matt Real’s second goal in two games helped Union II find their footing and, ultimately, scrap their way to an important, morale-boosting three points.
Importantly, leadership from players like Real, center back Brandan Craig, and Jesus Bueno allowed Philly to recover after a red card to Matt Freese and a late goal from Orlando that could have deflated the young squad.
At times overlooked, the professionalism and resiliency an experienced player like Real can bring show younger players how to handle adversity. And after giving up the tying goal, Union II brought a level of fight and determination to the final five minutes of the match. They put bodies in the box, and when Quinn Sullivan put a rebound shot on frame, Bueno streaked through to touch it home.
Union II will likely have another infusion of Union talent this Sunday against Columbus Crew 2. The Ohio-based side is leading MLS NEXT Pro’s Eastern Conference with a stunning +25 goal differential. The attack is very good, but the defense is Crew 2’s bread and butter. 13 goals allowed over 16 games points to a side that is rarely fazed in their defensive third, and Union II’s young attack needs to trouble the visitors early this Sunday if they want to succeed.
One particularly bright moment for Union II against Orlando was Nelson Pierre’s goal late in extra time. Pierre’s talent is apparent for all to see, but he had scored only once since dropping a brace on Miami on May 7.
Pierre took four shots that night in Miami and four the next weekend in a 1-0 win over Orlando City B in Philly. But since then he accumulated only six shots over his next six appearances, three of them starts. On Sunday, Pierre took two shots in 24 minutes off the bench, and his sprint to join the break in the 94th minute displayed a hunger to get back on the scoresheet.
That final goal was triggered by a turnover Quinn Sullivan created with his high pressure. The young Homegrown midfielder proved a difference-maker with an assist on the gamewinner and the defensive workrate to help Anton Sorensen in an unfamiliar right back role.
Perhaps the most important takeaway for Philly is that they can shut down a top goalscorer like Orlando City B’s Jack Lynn. One of the best in MLS NEXT Pro, Lynn got a short run out for Orlando City on Saturday before starting for Orlando City B. Union II kept him off the scoresheet, and they’ll need another strong defensive showing this Sunday against the league leaders. One positive for the Union II defense — Freese should be available since he will serve his red card suspension next time Union II face Orlando City B on September 11, not in the next Union II match overall.