Philadelphia Union II got back to winning ways this past Saturday as they beat NYCFC II at Subaru Park. A lineup that was half first-team players and half Union II players took it to New York City and was able to rise a bit in the division and conference standings. Philly is anything from a finished product, but this match showed what they can be.
Union II gets back to winning ways
It was a nice spring Saturday afternoon at Subaru Park when Union II and NYCFC II squared off. It was clear from the early minutes of the match that this would look very similar to when Philadelphia’s and New York City’s first teams played each other. Philly wanted little of the ball; they looked to press and hit on the counter. City wanted to control the game through possession; they looked to smother the opposition in their own half with chance creation. The first half saw both teams go scoreless, as both teams looked to take away the strengths of the other.
As the match moved to the second half, Union first-team homegrown’s Aaronson, Sullivan, and McGlynn knew they had 15 minutes to impact the game as they were only to play an hour so they could make a trip down to Nashville to play with the first team the next day. Just five minutes into the half, Union II found their first goal. Chris Donovan was able to take down a corner kick, and rocket a shot into the net to give Philly the lead. With the lead, Union II made subs to take the bulk of the first-team players off but still looked to hit on the counterattack.
One of those attacks led to the Union getting a freekick just outside the 18-yard-box. You probably wouldn’t think that centerback Brandan Craig would stand over the ball and hit a banger of a freekick past the keeper, but that’s just what Philadelphia Union centerbacks do! Craig’s blast gave the Union II a 2-0 lead, and if it wasn’t for an NYCFC II goal in second-half stoppage time, Philly would’ve had a clean sheet to go along with three points. Regardless of that though, Union II was back to its winning ways, and there are some major takeaways from this match.
Three main things that came out of this match are all positives that Philadelphia Union II can build on moving forward. With a hectic season and only four teams from the 10 in the east making the playoffs, Union II need to build off of finding their winning ways against NYCFC.
1. Chris Donovan could be the real deal
The first main takeaway is that forward Chris Donovan has been stealing the show. He is the team’s leading scorer with three goals from their five matches and has an assist as well to his name. He has shown very well for this team and could be playing his way to being a mainstay starter this season. With Jose Riasco with the team now, Donovan will have to keep that form up. It’s gonna be hard to keep a guy the team shelled out over $1 million for on the bench for too long.
2. Craig, Turner, and Freese are mainstays with U II
One of the main criticisms of the Union II so far is that it’s mostly been first-team players getting minutes over players on the roster. While we’re going to see that a lot, knowing who are the mainstays on the team will make things easier on the other players to get time and to know that they have to impress with the time they get. We can now see that Brandan Craig, Cole Turner, and Matt Fresse are likely to be mainstays with U II this season. As the season progresses, rostered players will get their chances to get more minutes and to impress in the time they get, when first-team players aren’t available.
3. Moving up the Next Pro Standings
With Union II getting back to their winning ways against NYCFC, they have put themselves right in the thick of things in the eastern conference standings, and in the northeast division standings. Union II is tied for second place (with TFC II) in the northeast division with nine points, only three points off leaders New England Revolution II. In the conference, Philly is just below the red line; TFC II is just above them thanks to a better goal difference.
Union II needs to keep these winning ways going if they are to stay relevant in a competitive eastern conference. So far, their MLS NExt Pro debut season is going well, but the sky is the limit for this team if they can keep gelling and finding ways to win.
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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union, Andrew Zwarych