3rd place Philadelphia Union II went on the road this past weekend to 1st place Columbus Crew 2 and fell 2-0. Philly was a bit shorthanded but held their own for most of the match against the top team in the eastern conference. Leaning on young players, Union II is still amidst an amazing late-season run with three games to play.
Union II fall for the first time since July 18
Philadelphia Union II’s inaugural season in MLS Next Pro has been an up-and-down affair. Early on the team had some success, followed by a mid-season winless streak. Then as the calendar turned to July, Philly knew they needed to go on a run if they wanted to get into the top four. A run of six unbeaten saw Philly jump up the standings to where they currently sit.
This weekend’s loss was to the best team in the east Columbus Crew 2. Crew 2 has already clinched a playoff spot, the only team in the east so far to do so. This top team is led by standout players coming through the Crew system Jake Morris and Jacen Russell-Rowe, both scored against Philly to secure the victory.
Philly was shorthanded as the first team players substitutes who usually get minutes with Union II were with the first team as the teams played matches on the same day. This produced a lineup that is the youngest in MLS Next Pro for Philly.
Youngest team in MLS Next Pro
As Philly played in what will be their biggest test of the regular season at Columbus, they only had two first-team players in their team, Anton Sorenson and Brandan Craig. They are seen as veterans on this side, even though they are teenage homegrowns themselves. Because of this, the team lacked the normal veteran presence that they get from Jesus Bueno, Cole Turner, and Matt Freese; however, that doesn’t mean that this team was an undisciplined wreck.
Union II held their own for most of the match. The first goal against them came in the 40th minute from a beautiful near-post finish that went top-bins for Jake Morris. After Bajung Darboe received a red card in the 59th minute, Philly had to play a man down while being a goal down. Even then, they almost kept the match to a one-goal deficit, but a perfect counterattack while up a man made for a second goal for Crew 2.
While this match was a rough one for Union II, they are still on an amazing late-season run with just three matches left in the MLS Next Pro season.
An amazing late-season run; three matches left
This team has been on one great run in the late-season, even with this loss to Columbus. Philly has taken 17 points from a possible 21 and is firmly planted in 3rd place in the east. While teams below Philly are still vying for one of the final two playoff spots, if Union II can keep their good form up for their final three matches, then they should be in a playoff place when the season ends.
Union II has three more matches to go in the inaugural MLS Next Pro season. Two are at home, one against Rochester, who is one point behind Philly in 4th place, and another against Orlando City B a team at the bottom of the east. Philly ends their season on the road to New England Revolution II, who are currently four points outside of a playoff place.
The results from these final three matches will determine where Philly will finish in the standings. We’ll see if they’ll rely on their mix of first-team subs and Union II players in this final stretch of the season. If it’s a mixture of the two, then they’ll have the skill to make the playoffs. We’ll see how things play out in the coming weeks!
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Mandatory Credit: Justin Friedberg