Union Reserve team and Reading United A.C. coach Brendan Burke leads a training session with the Union U18 Academy team (Photo courtesy of YSC Sports)
On Sunday, May 8th, the newest winner of the national youth soccer talent competition known as Sueño MLS was crowned during the Spanish sports program Republica Deportiva. And that winner happened to hail from nearby Camden, N.J.
Birnis Adames, a Dominican-born 18-year-old who just started playing soccer four years ago, was named the winner of the talent search. Since he originally tried out at YSC Sports during the Philadelphia leg of the competition, he has earned a place with the Union Youth Academy.
Because of his age, Adames will almost certainly join the Union U-18 Academy team, which is currently in a training and development phase under the direction of Reading United A.C. and Union Reserve team coach Brendan Burke. Adames, whose brother has played with the Dominican Republic U-17 national team and whose playing style has been compared to Thierry Henry, will join a forward corps that includes young talents such as Melvin Snoh and Christian Hernandez.
This past week also saw the return of the local area clubs in U.S. Soccer Development Academy action, and it was rivalry week as two Union-affiliated clubs faced off against each other. PA Classics and FC Delco took the field and played an entertaining match, with Delco receiving some help from a player that has now moved on to greater heights. More after the break.
Both PA Classics and FC Delco had Saturday off, which only served to create more buzz around the Sunday matchup between the two teams across two different age levels.
The first game was the more highly anticipated one. The FC Delco U18 team was given a boost early in the morning with word that Zach Pfeffer, who had left the team late last year to sign a professional Home Grown contract with the Philadelphia Union, would suit up for his former team. This isn't at all unprecedented in the Development Academy; recent Home Grown signing Diego Fagundez of the New England Revolution has played for the team's U16 and U18 teams during the recent months.
Pfeffer slotted into the starting eleven to form a formidable midfield foursome along with Jimmy McLaughlin, who went 90 minutes in the Union's first reserve team, as well as Ryan Dodds and Mike Gonzalez, who both are part of the Union U18 Academy team. Union U18 goalkeeper Zach Steffen, who backed up Thorne Holder in the Union's reserve team game, was out for this game as was Union U18 defender Colin O'Neill, as both players would play in the U16 game later on. For PA Classics, Union U18 midfielder Ryan Bertrando was in the starting lineup.
Classics got off to a great start, as Tyler Gay put them up 1-0 in the 12th minute. They were on fire late in the first half and Alex Panuccio added another two goals of his own in the 38th and 41st minutes to put his team up 3-0.
Delco came out looking to get back on track in the second half and it was their superstar, Pfeffer, who started the comeback as he pulled one back in the 55th minute. His effort inspired his team to up their level of play and Ben Maurey made it 3-2 in the 62nd minute.
But that was as far as Classics would allow Delco to get. Striker Kelton Cheney, who has recently become part of the Union U18 Academy team, scored two goals of his own in the 75th and 80th minutes to put the game out of reach at 5-2. Connor Goldsmith added another late into stoppage time to finish Delco and complete a 6-2 rout for PA Classics.
The result allows Classics to leapfrog Delco in the standings, moving them into the important second spot in the Mid-Atlantic Division with 7 points. Delco sits in third with 6 points. Those point totals are from 4 divisional games each. Delco has a slightly better overall record, but it is the divisional record that matters as the teams fight for playoff spots. The top two teams from each division reach the playoffs automatically.
Later in the day, the teams faced off at the U16 level. As mentioned earlier, Steffen and O'Neill took the field for Delco, as well as fellow Union U18 defender Nick Hutchinson. Jonathan Wenger and Christian Kaschak, also of the Union U18s, were in PA Classics' starting eleven.
The game didn't live up to the eight-goal reputation of the first game, but Delco were able to exact some revenge as they overcame a 24th minute opening goal from PA Classics to come back and win 2-1. Striker Brett Campbell netted his 11th goal in 16 games for Delco.
The U16 standings are somewhat similar to the U18s at this point. Classics sit in second place in the Mid-Atlantic with 9 points from four divisional games, while Delco are in fourth with 6 points in as many games. Delco are actually unbeaten with one win and three ties. The two teams are chasing Baltimore Bays Chelsea, who are in first place. The rules for getting into the playoffs are the same at the U16 level.
Next weekend, Delco and Classics will each take on DC United and Potomac Soccer Club over Saturday and Sunday. I had been hoping to get out to the Delco-DC game on Saturday, as it was originally scheduled to be played in Downingtown, but it has been moved to Twin Valley High School which is much tougher for me. Anyone who wants to see the next generation of Union players should make their best effort to get out and support them!
The other Union-affiliated club, Players Development Academy of New Jersey, returns to action on Sunday against the New York Cosmos Academy East team.
Below is a profile video of Birnis Adames, the newest member of the Union Academy: