Philadelphia Union II faces Orlando City B in 2023 MLS Next Pro Season Opener

The Philadelphia Union’s senior squad is already a few weeks into their season, but more soccer is on its way to the city of Philadelphia as Union II start their MLS Next Pro season off on Sunday against Orlando City B.

Union II
Union II open their 2022 MLS Next Pro Campaign against FC Cincinnati 2. Mandatory Credit: Justin Friedberg

Union II kick off their season

Last season was a pretty good one for Union II, they managed to get through some early struggles with consistency and got into the playoffs, losing to Toronto FC II just before the title game. This season, Marlon LeBlanc’s squad will be looking to replicate that and even take it one step further by bringing home the title. 

Union II has been in pre-season mode since the start of February and had a very strong pre-season program that saw them win 5 of their 8 games, losing twice and drawing one. During the off-season and pre-season, Union II has been busy with roster additions and contract renewals. 

The first thing Union II did during the off-season was signing Head Coach Marlon LeBlanc to a new, multi-year contract. In my opinion, it’s the least Marlon deserves for the work and coaching ability he possesses, you can tell through the way he talks that he loves youth football and really wants the best for not just his team, but the entirety of youth football in the US. Marlon is thought of very highly by not just the brass in Philadelphia and he’s been linked to head coaching roles with MLS senior teams.  

Marlon’s also been in Philadelphia for a long time and has been a major player in the development of all the young, homegrown players that have ended up in the senior squad, like Brandan Craig, both Aaronson brothers, Quinn Sullivan, Chris Donovan, Jack McGlynn, and even non-homegrown players like Jesus Bueno. Marlon would be a leading candidate to replace Jim Curtin if he was to ever leave, and so signing him for multiple years was a huge thing for Union in general.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Changes to the young roster

Union II also made some roster changes during the off-season. Unfortunately for Marlon, he will be without Matt Freese, who moved on to NYCFC last month, and Brandan Craig will also not be joining up with the team this season. It’s going to be interesting to see if the likes of Matt Real, Jesus Bueno, Chris Donovan, and more find themselves back with Union II or whether they stay with the senior team. 

In terms of roster additions, Union II added two new players, defender Juan Castillo and midfielder Pedro Alvarez. Castillo recently played for NYRB II and even made a senior appearance for the Red Bulls in the US Open Cup quarter-final. Castillo has also represented Colombia at the U17’s and U20’s level. Alvarez comes from Union II’s favorite place to scout, Venezuela, where he played 84 games in 4 years for Aragua FC. 

Unfortunately, with the lack of marketing and information made available for the MLS Next Pro, I can’t tell you about the entire roster for the game against Orlando but I can confirm that Jose Riasco, Nathan Nkanji, and Boubacar Diallo are all back with Union II this season. They’re also joined by returning defensive midfielder Maike Villero, who recently renewed his loan deal for another year, and Union Superdraft pick, Stefan Stojanovic, who was with UII last season.  

Goalkeeper Brooks Thompson also returns to the team and will be fighting for the starting role with Union 1st-round draft pick, Holden Trent. Outside of those, the only other player listed on UII’s official roster on their website is defender Gino Portella. I’d imagine the rest of the roster will be filled up with Union Academy standouts and a few of the former UII players that are currently with the senior team.

Union II
Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Opening match info

The match against Orlando FC B kicks off at 3 pm ET and will be played at Subaru Park. Tickets can be found on the official UII website, so if you’re not doing anything Sunday and feel like watching some live soccer that’s local, head down to Subaru Park and watch Union II kick their second MLS Next Pro season off. If it’s anything like last season, you’re guaranteed to see an exciting game with lots of goals! 

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Mandatory Credit: Justin Friedberg & Philadelphia Union