Last week, Union II got their 2023 MLS Next Pro season off to a poor start by losing 3-1 to Orlando. This weekend, Marlon LeBlanc and his side will be looking to bounce back from that defeat as they take on Inter Miami II.
Union II vs Inter Miami II
Inter Miami II got their season underway last week too, and just like Philly, they lost 3-1 to Chicago. Federico Higuain is the man in charge of Inter Miami II and he’s implemented a lot of young, high-ceiling players into the squad. That hasn’t worked out so far for him but if players start reaching those ceilings, Miami could be a real contender this year.
Union II will be helped out by the end of the international break as homegrown players have returned to Philly and so we could see the likes of Quinn Sullivan, Jack McGlynn, and Brandan Craig come into the Union II first team, depending on the minutes they get for the senior squad.
Early Season Struggles
Marlon LeBlanc’s side really struggled with the pace and counterattacks Orlando threw at them last week and I’d imagine there will be changes to the tactics that Philly deploys as they allowed Orlando way too much room down the flanks.
LeBlanc has a lot of attacking options to choose from. Just looking at last week’s squad, he had a starting forward duo of Stefan Stojanovic and Nelson Pierre and then had Jose Riasco on the bench too. Throw in the fact that Chris Donovan could see the pitch as a Union II player as well. The issue for LeBlanc is he hasn’t got a player who can get those forwards the ball, he hasn’t got a link from his defenders to his forwards.
Last weeks standout
I liked how academy prospect CJ Olney played last week, and he could turn out to be that player, but they need an instant impact and so, with Jack McGlynn likely getting regular senior starts, Union II hasn’t got a good option to go with. Defensively, Union II are struggling too, it was an issue last year for them but with Matt Freese in goal and Brandan Craig starting almost every game for them, it helped hide the cracks. With both of them not involved this year, it’s a real issue for Marlon LeBlanc’s side and something that needs to be fixed quickly, if they want to challenge for the title again this year.
Speaking of the defensive issues for Union II and their needing to fix it sooner rather than later, they did sign a new player to the roster. French center-back Hugo Le Guennec was announced as a Union II player on Tuesday and he’ll join the squad pending his P1-Visa and will occupy an international roster spot.
Can Philly get their first win?
Hugo is a former Rutgers center-back who played for the Scarlet Knights 48 times over 4 years. Hugo comes with a lot of pedigree and his performances on the pitch earned him a list of accolades including being selected to the 2019 Big Ten All-Freshman team, a selection to the 2022 Top Drawer Soccer National Team of the Week, an All-Big Ten Second Team Pick, named as the Defensive Player of the Big Ten Tournament back in 2022, and was named to the United Soccer Coaches All-North Region Third Team. Hugo will be a big boost to the slim defensive options Union II currently has.
Union II’s game against Miami II kicks off at 3 pm EST and is being played at Subaru Park. Tickets can be found on the Union II website or, if you can’t make it to the stadium, the game is streamed live, for free, through your MLS Season Pass or on the MLS Next Pro website.
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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union