Royal Flush: Philadelphia Union U15s knock out Real Madrid, advance to the Generation Adidas Cup semifinals

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A day after dispatching Arsenal 4-1, the Philadelphia Union U15s were at it again, this time against a Real Madrid side that was one of the tournament favorites. With this being the standout matchup of the round, yesterday it was announced that kickoff would be delayed by a half hour in order to fit with the tournament broadcast schedule on MLS Season Pass.

Union takes down Real Madrid!

CHESTER, PA – DECEMBER 05: A Philadelphia Union Fan holds up a “Believe” sign during the first half of the Major League Soccer Cup Playoffs match between New York City FC and the Philadelphia Union on December 5, 2021, at Subaru Park in Chester, PA. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire)

Both teams entered this round flying high; Real Madrid defeated fellow La Liga (for now; the first team- including the US Men’s National Team’s Yunus Musah- is staring relegation in the face) side Valencia 3-0. In the group stage, they also beat MLS sides Nashville and LAFC, 2-0 and 3-0 respectively. Philly, on the other hand, proved themselves a much sterner test, winning 6-5 on penalties after playing out to a 0-0 draw over the 60-minute match.

First Half

The Union did their best to start this match off the same way they had against Arsenal, getting the ball forward and looking to generate an immediate chance, but the Real Madrid defense dealt with the danger. Unlike Arsenal, Madrid settled into the match from the off, maintaining long spells of possession, with Philadelphia resorting to hitting them on the counter. They continued to defend well and were unlucky not to go ahead after a superb layoff inside the Union’s box set them up with a shot that Philly keeper Alex Smith did well to save.

Soon after, the Union generated a chance of their own, but the cross was just overhit. The rest of the half was back and forth, and Philadelphia nearly went ahead after some great play by forward Anisse Saidi led to a chance for fullback Jordan Griffin, but his shot blazed over the net.

Second Half

The Union did better controlling the game in the second half and was able to generate more chances because of it. Once again, they came close to starting with a goal, Real Madrid’s keeper denying a shot from Saidi with a kick save. Saidi, along with fellow star-in-the-making Cavan Sullivan, continued to generate good opportunities for Philadelphia, but they couldn’t find a breakthrough.

Real Madrid only generated one good scoring chance in the second half, but Smith read the play and put a stop to it before it could amount to anything. Madrid’s keeper in turn made a great save to deny the Union a game-winner with one of the last kicks of the match, and the teams headed to penalties.

The Shootout

The Union has looked comfortable on penalties all tournament, defeating Valencia on penalties in the group stage and scoring one against Arsenal. That trend continued today.

Both teams scored their first shots, but Smith again came up huge for Philly, saving the second penalty. After that came two rounds of both teams scoring, leading to the potentially decisive fifth round. Real Madrid needed to score and hope the Union missed, otherwise it was over. Madrid scored their penalty, heaping all the pressure on Philadelphia, and it showed, with their shot going wide.

After the initial five rounds of penalties, it moved to sudden death. Both teams scored, but then Smith made another great save to once again set up the Union with a potentially game-winning spot kick. This time, Gavin DeHart buried the ball in the back of the net, and Real Madrid with it.

Looking Ahead

Following the 6-5 penalty shootout win, the Union U15s move on to the semifinals of the Generation Adidas cup, where they will take on fellow MLS side Orlando City (Saturday 4/8 at 12:00 pm). 

The other side of the bracket features a matchup of MLS side Austin against Belgian side KRC Genk (where Union academy graduate and former first-team player Mark McKenzie currently plays- for the first team, of course, not the U15s). The Union will like their chances of winning the tournament now but will have to make sure they stay focused on each game as it comes, despite the remaining opponents lacking the prestige of Real Madrid or Arsenal.

No matter what happens, the future looks bright for this group of young talents.

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Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire