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Philadelphia Union Academy picks up win, draw against NJCSA

The U18 team won on a late goal from J.J. Nixon and the U16s were unable to hold onto a two-goal lead in games played at YSC Sports Sunday against New Jersey Cedar Stars Academy.

The U18s celebrate JJ Nixon's game-winning goal on Sunday, April 10, at YSC Sports
The U18s celebrate JJ Nixon's game-winning goal on Sunday, April 10, at YSC Sports
Matt Ralph

It didn't take Jerren "J.J." Nixon long to make a huge impact in the Philadelphia Union Academy U18 team's game Sunday morning at YSC Sports.

Moments after coming off the bench in the 70th minute, Nixon got behind the defense and slipped the ball past New Jersey Cedar Stars Academy goalkeeper Justin Stoll to break a deadlock and lead the U18s to their fourth straight win.

The goal was the fourth of the season and the third game-winner for the University of Virginia-bound Nixon. Since the second half of the season kicked off in March, the U18 team has gone 4-0-0 while outscoring opponents 12-0.

NJCSA, which was in last place in the Atlantic Division standings entering the game, proved a formidable opponent, cutting down wave after wave of attack and frustrating the Union offense that had little to show as the game approached its climax.

Alexander Soto, facing his former team, nearly found the breakthrough down the left side on a long switch from Anthony Fontana, but it was Nixon's first touch off the bench on a through ball in a play created by Soto and Josue Monge that turned the game from a frustrating draw into a 1-0 win.

Defensively, the Union back line with Matthew Real at left back, 16-year-old Rayshaun McGann pairing in the center with Mark McKenzie, and Shane Bradley on the right, held off a late equalizer push to give goalkeeper Andrew Verdi his fourth straight clean sheet.

With the win, the Union improve to 12-3-4 and are four points ahead of New York Red Bulls, which are first in the standings based on points per games played.

Photo Gallery: Union Academy vs NJCSA

U16s

An NJCSA fan referencing the Arsenal and West Ham match from earlier in the day when the visitors went down 2-0 wasn't too far off in the end as the U16s squandered a two-goal lead and had to settle for a 3-3 draw.

The Union opened the scoring in the 12th minute on a penalty kick by Kurtis Orrson after Issa Rayyan was taken down in the box. Rayyan doubled the lead 22 minutes later when he got on the end of a deep cross from the left side from Kalil ElMedkhar.

NJCSA forward Michael Cortez cut the lead in half just after halftime and Conor Kelly found an equalizer six minutes later. Justin McMaster's 10th of the season put the Union back in front a minute later but Anes Mrkulic played the spoiler with a 74th equalizer that secured the visitors a point.

The draw was the second in a row for the U16s and marked just the second time this season that the defense conceded three or more goals (they lost to LA Galaxy 4-3 in December down in Florida). They're now 2-0-2 since the second half of the season kicked off in March.

U14s

The U14 team was slated to play at YSC Sports on Saturday afternoon but the game was postponed because of snow.

Pre-Academy

The U13 team beat NJCSA 5-0 on Saturday. The U15 game scheduled for Sunday was postponed.

Up Next

The U18 and U16 teams visit Empire United in West Henrietta, New York on Saturday, April 16. The U18s play at 11 a.m., followed by the U16 game at 1:30 p.m. The U14s host Met Oval at YSC Sports on Saturday at 3 p.m. The U15 and U13 teams are off until April 23 when they travel to Bethesda-Olney.