The New York Red Bulls are all that stand between the Philadelphia Union's U18 and U16 teams and first place in their division. This Saturday, both Union youth teams will have a chance to do something about that when they host their Atlantic Division rivals at the Talen Energy Stadium Training Grounds.
The U18s (16-3-5) will kick off their match at 1:30 p.m. looking to avenge a 1-0 loss on the road in the fall. The Union actually lead the Red Bulls on points with 53 to their 49, but the two games in hand the North Jersey club has have them top of the division table on points per game.
It will be the fourth meeting of the teams after they did not play in the Union's inaugural season in the U.S. Development Academy back in 2013-14. The Union won 3-0 at home last May and played to a scoreless draw on the road in November 2014 in their other meetings.
The Red Bulls are led in scoring by Loyola commit Brian Saramago, who found the back of the net for the 18th time of the season last week in a 2-1 win over Seacoast United. Barry Sharifi, who is second on the team in goals with seven, scored the winner in extra time in that game.
Saramago, who has made two appearances for New York Red Bulls II in USL play this year, has four goals in his last three matches and is fourth in the Development Academy in goals. The Red Bulls also feature a defender who will soon be calling the Philly area home in Villanova-bound Sean Teixeira. Teixeira is a No. 62 ranked recruit in the incoming freshman class, according to TopDrawerSoccer.com.
The Union U18s are a more balanced team offensively - Raheem Taylor-Parkes and Tiger Graham are tied for the team lead in goals with six - and have one of the stingiest defenses in the league. Goalkeeper Andrew Verdi recorded his 12th clean sheet of the season last weekend against Montreal Impact and as a team they've conceded just three goals in nine games in 2016.
The Union U16s (15-3-6) will look for their first win ever against the Red Bulls in a game kicking off at 3:30 p.m.
The teams drew 1-1 in North Jersey in their last meeting in November and the Red Bulls swept the series last season.
The Red Bulls, which have two games in hand, are first in the Atlantic Division but are even on points with the second place Union.
The Baby Bulls have a high-powered offense - only six teams league-wide have scored more than them this year - led by Omir Fernandez with 16 goals. Their 20 goals conceded is the third fewest in the league. The Union aren't far behind with just 22 goals allowed and only six fewer goals scored.
Union's leading goal scorers - Justin McMaster (13) and Issa Rayyan (10) - both played up with the U18s along with playmaker Josue Monge last week.
The U14 team (15-1-3) will look to avenge their only loss of the season with a rematch against Red Bulls in North Jersey at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
The Red Bulls beat the U14s 4-1 at YSC Sports in October in one of only four games the team hasn't scored more than one goal in all season.
In four meetings dating back to November 2013, the Union U14s are 1-2-1.
The U12s take on local rivals Continental FC Delco on the road at 10 a.m.; the U15s host Bethesday-Olney at YSC Sports at 1 p.m. and the U13s host New York Red Bulls at 3 p.m. at YSC Sports on Saturday.