The Philadelphia Union II gets their MLS NEXT Pro season underway on Sunday and it’s an exciting time for all the academy teams involved with the new development league set up by the MLS. It’s an extra special exciting time for Union II because they also announced two more signings to the roster, so let’s get into the preview of the game and tell you everything there is to know about the two new signings in the first-ever Union II Roundup!
Union II Roundup
Union II vs FC Cincinnati 2 Preview
In their opening match of the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro season, the Union II face off against FC Cincinnati 2. Many long-time MLS fans will recognize Cincy’s head coach Tyrone Marshall given he made over 300 MLS appearances, won 2 MLS Cups, and 3 US Open Cups. Cincy has only announced 5 new signings since they started operating, so most of their roster will be filled with academy promotions and maybe a couple of fringe players from the senior team.
Of the 5 players Cincy has signed, goalkeeper Nico Campuzano is the one that really stands out to me. 24 years old and has played for some of the best academies in Spain including FC Barcelona, Villareal CF, and Real Valladolid. He also impressed at Pittsburgh University where he finished third in saves out of the whole country and sixth in the country for clean sheets. The Union II will have a hard time scoring past Campuzano if he’s on top form to start the season.
The Union II on the other hand has made 9 signings since the league was announced and will also fill the rest of the roster with academy graduates and fringe senior players. Defender Brandon Craig has been playing with the Union II during their nine-week pre-season, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he plays in their first regular-season game.
Nelson Pierre, who Union fans will know from the senior teams pre-season, was the first signing announced but since, the Union II have added some really good youngsters to the team, including goalkeeper Brooks Thompson who was highly rated in Sporting Kansas’ youth setup, forwards Stefan Stojanovic and Chris Donovan, and South American imports Juan Perdomo and Maike Villero.
It’s going to be a really fun experience to have a youth league that seems to be properly funded and considered important by the MLS for the growth of the sport, not just in the US, but also on the global stage too. The Union is expecting a sell-out for the first-ever match; we’ll see if that means that Subaru Park will be full, or if all of the tickets available will be sold! One fun little rule for anyone who is going to watch the game on Sunday, if the game ends as a tie, don’t leave, if games end in a tie during the MLS NEXT Pro season, there’s a penalty shootout to determine who gets an extra point in the standings, and who doesn’t love a penalty shootout!
New Signings Jose Riasco and Carlos Paternina
The Union love dipping into South America and specifically to Venezuela for their young stars and this time they’ve managed to snap up the most exciting prospect Venezuela has seen for a while. Jose Riasco is a 6 foot 2, 18-year-old striker who has immense potential for the future and is already showing how good he is in the Venezuelan Primera Division for Deportivo La Guaira.
He’s already made 24 senior appearances at 18 years old, with 5 goals and 3 assists. Tall, strong, and very athletic, Riasco has a lot of buzz around him from many South American football experts. Philadelphia Union Sporting Director, Ernst Tanner was heavily involved with the signing of Riasco and pushed the ownership into splashing a reported 1 million on the signing of Riasco.
According to Transfermarkt, Ernst Tanner has compared the signing to a signing he made back in his Red Bull Salzburg days, forward Karim Adeyemi, who’s currently balling out for Salzburg and is expected to go to a European giant for a lot of money in the summer. Riasco could finally be the young striker the Union has been crying out for to develop into a senior team contributor like the likes of Jack McGlynn, the Aaronson brother, and Quinn Sullivan.
Carlos Paternina is the other new signing for the Union II. Another South American import, this time from Columbia, the 20-year-old CAM really impressed me on the film I saw. Left-footed CAM who loves to take on players whenever he can. Paternina has a very low center of gravity that allows him to keep the ball even if there are multiple defenders on him. Solid ball control and also has a great eye for a pass, loves playing through balls down the wings, and isn’t afraid to use his right foot if it gives him a better chance of pulling a pass or shot off.
Paternina has been with Columbian side Envigado FC since he was 13 years old and made his senior debut in 2020. Envigado is quite a famous name for their youth development skills and has developed the likes of James Rodriguez, Fredy Guarin, and Juan Quintero, so Paternina is coming with a lot of pedigree and the Union will be over the moon if he ends up on the level of those three.
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Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire