Union II

Union II continues unbeaten form to rise to top of the East


Philadelphia Union II once again showed off its resilience, battling back in the second half to extend its unbeaten form and pick up a shootout win over rivals New York Red Bulls II on Sunday afternoon.

The Boys in Blue picked up the 1-1 result in regulation with forward Eddy Davis III finding the equalizer in the 56th minute to send the match to a kicks from the penalty spot. In the extra frames, goalkeeper Andrew Rick once again was a brick wall as he made a pair of stops to see Union II grab the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Red Bulls versus Union rivalry was on display from the opening kick, with both sides battling for every inch of the pitch to establish their style of play. Early on the visitors had the early momentum with a counter-attacking chance nearly paying dividends in the fourth minute as Frank Ssebufu hit a cross to the back post for Curtis Ofori who failed to convert. A few minutes later, Ofori was again in the attacking as the outside back shook off a couple of defenders but saw his potential scoring effort denied with a timely tackle from center-back Olwethu Makhanya.

The visitors' pressure paid off in the 14th minute as Frank Sserwadda opened the scoring for Red Bulls II. Union II pushed forward for a free kick opportunity but the visiting side took advantage with an advantageous clearance sparting a 1v1 counterattack for Sserwadda who slotted it just under Rick who made it a difficult finish.

The Union kept their focus as they kept pushing for the equalizer with multiple scoring chances in the opening half. Six minutes after falling behind, Union II saw a set piece ball fall to the top of the box where forward Markus Anderson unleashed a blast with his laces that beat everyone but went inches over the crossbar.

Just before the half-hour mark, Nick Pariano forced a turnover and quickly shot up the field to turn defense into an offensive opportunity. The Union midfielder sent a centering pass to David Vazquez who went for a long-range blast that hit off a defender but went right to the keeper.
After a dominant start to the second half, Union II finally found the equalizer in the 56th minute on a tremendous build-up and finish. After seeing their initial attack shut down by the visitors, Union II regained possession and quickly attacked from the opposite direction with a long-switching ball to Frankie Westfield. The vice-captain took a pair of touches before unleashing a hard-centering pass into the box for Davis III to quickly redirect into the back of the net.

Union II nearly grabbed the lead moments after making it 1-1 with another direct attack. After the Red Bulls committed numbers into an attack, Sanders Ngabo gained possession and saw the goalscorer open at the center stripe. The MLS midfield punted it forward for the Union Academy forward who raced into the 18-yard box and cut inside before seeing his shot saved by the keeper.

Head Coach Marlon LeBlanc turned to his substitute options just past the hour mark with a trio of changes as Sal Olivas, Gavin Wetzel, and Cavin Sullivan took to the pitch. The changes gave fresh legs to the physical affair that resulted in seven yellow cards.

In what felt like destiny, the two unbeaten sides finished deadlocked and headed to a shootout from the penalty spot to determine who'd claim the extra point for the standings. Both teams converted in the first round but in the second round, Andrew Rick made a diving stop to his left to put the home side in the driver's seat. Kyle Tucker and CJ Olney kept Union II perfect from the spot before the final shot from the Red Bulls crashed off the woodwork and sent Subaru Park into a frenzy.

Union II is back in action next Sunday as they hit the road to take on FC Cincinnati 2 with kick-off set for 4 PM.