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Home Grown Hopefuls: Union Affiliates Torn Apart by Red Bulls Academy

If young starlet Juan Agudelo hadn't yet signed a pro contract with the Red Bulls, he would have played this weekend against FC DELCO and PA Classics. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for New York Red Bulls)

This past weekend, two of the Union's youth development affiliates faced off against one of the premier teams in the entire country. In fact, the past round of games could be thought of as something of a rivalry week for FC Delco and PA Classics.

One thing is for sure, though: it was a weekend that Delco and Classics will quickly want to forget.

The U16 and U18 teams of both Delco and Classics took on the equivalent squads from the New York Red Bulls. For the U18s, taking on the Red Bulls would have been an arduous task no matter what; they have been something of a poster child recently for the entire U.S. Soccer Development Academy. Red Bulls striker Juan Agudelo, who just scored for the full U.S. men's national team, was produced by their system, and if he hadn't signed with the first team, he literally would have been playing in these games against Delco and Classics for the NYRB U18s.

But this was a Red Bulls U18 team that was coming off the experience of their lives, leaving their confidence at an astronomically high level going into their games against the Union affiliates. They had just spent a day training with none other than Lionel Messi, Angel di Maria, and the Argentina senior national soccer team.

That was the context in which Delco and Classics took on the Red Bulls this weekend. The other opponent that the two sides played this week was Players Development Academy, who is also a Union affiliate, hence why I referred to this as something of a rivalry week. There was also one bright spot this weekend from a Union U18 forward that doesn't play for Delco, PDA, or Classics. Results coming up after the break.

Naturally we'll start with Saturday's games. FC Delco U18s took on the Red Bulls U18s, and had a really tough time. The Red Bulls' confidence and spirits were sky high after spending a day with Messi and his boys, and includes several highly regarded prospects, including defender Brian Gallego who will head to the University of Akron this fall. The Red Bulls quickly went up 2-0 before Union U18 captain Jimmy McLaughlin pulled one back, but New York put it away in the 90th minute and won 3-1 despite actually going down to 10 men. Besides McLaughlin, Union midfielders Ryan Dodds and Mike Gonzalez and goalkeeper Zach Steffen went the distance.

The Delco U16s also took on their Red Bulls counterparts, but didn't fare any better. They fell 2-1 to New York; Connor Ryan was the only Union Academy member that participated.

PA Classics' teams spent the day playing against Players Development Academy, another Union affiliate that hails from New Jersey. The Classics U18s played a solid, complete game, beating PDA 2-0. Union Academy midfielder Ryan Bertrando netted one of the goals, and defender Jonathan Kumher also took part, although he left the game early, probably with an injury. The Classics U16s played out a 2-2 draw with the PDA U16s. Union Academy members Jonathan Wenger and Christian Kaschak played in this one for Classics, and goalkeeper Jacob Schenk played for PDA.

On Sunday, it was Classics' turn to test their mettle against the Red Bulls. The U18s were torn to shreds, just like their Delco counterparts. They lost by a 3-0 scoreline. Kumher missed the game, meaning he most likely did in fact get injured Saturday. Bertrando was the only Union affiliated player to play in the tough loss.

The Classics U16s were the one team to get some revenge against the Red Bulls; they were the only team out of the four that took on NYRB over the two days and two age levels to get a positive result. They beat New York 4-1, despite going down to 10 men in the second half. Wenger and Kaschak both went the distance.

Delco took on PDA on Sunday. The U18s, fresh off their tough loss to the Red Bulls, struggled once again against the PDA U18s, losing 4-2. McLaughlin, Dodds, Gonzalez, and Steffen all participated. The Delco U16s managed to scratch out a 1-1 draw with the PDA U16s, earning the club at least one point in the four games across the two age levels this weekend. Connor Ryan played in this game as well, along with Colin O'Neill, who has suited up at the U18 level at times this year but in this one he was with the U16s.

Among all of these mediocre performances by FC Delco and PA Classics, one player who left one of these clubs but is still affiliated with the Union had a sensational weekend. Baltimore Bays Chelsea U18 striker Chris Somerville, who played for the Union at the SUM Cup last summer, scored four goals across his two games this weekend. He first scored a hat trick in a 4-0 win for Bays against Empire United.

He followed that up with another goal against Seacoast United, the only tally of the match. This gives him eight goals for the season, and he is a real prospect to watch. He will head to the heralded University of Virginia program this fall, and may be the best candidate to eventually be offered a homegrown contract with the Union at some point in the future. He has also been involved with the U.S. U18 national team this year.

That wraps up this weekend's action. YSC Sports has posted some photos of a recent Union U18 training session on Facebook; be sure to check those out. And one more final note: the Union will be one of three teams hosting the 2011 edition of Sueño MLS, which gives players ages 14-18 a chance to earn an MLS contract. The event will be held in late April at YSC Sports' Wayne facility.

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