The Philadelphia Union Academy U16 team was three minutes away from a thrilling win over Club Tijuana on Tuesday when disaster struck in the LIGA Bancomer MX International Tournament.
The first blow came in the 67th minute (of 70) when the Union were whistled for a penalty in the box. Daniel Lopez stepped to the spot and buried the equalizer with a long run-up and a shot to the Lopez’s right, with goalkeeper Tomas Romero going the opposite direction.
Just three minutes later, Jesus Ochoa collected a pass after a electrifying run into the box by a teammate and toe poked one to the far post to give the Xolos the lead in the 70th minute. With the Union pressing for an equalizer, Lopez scored again to make it 3-1 late into stoppage time.
After a scoreless first half, Issa Rayyan gave the Union just their second lead of the tournament in the 36th minute with a calm finish in front of goal off a pass from near the end line by Chad Letts that Brendan Aaronson wisely left for his teammate (Intelligent plays like this that don’t show up in the score sheet are an Aaronson trademark).
The goal was the second of the tournament for Rayyan, who celebrated with a front flip near the sideline.
With the loss, the Union fell to 1-4-0 in tournament play with games still to play against overall leaders Pachuca and FC Dallas. Despite the loss, the team should be applauded for holding a team like the Xolos down as long as they did.
Rayyan, Letts, Iverson Brisma, Carter Emack, Aaronson, Guei Bla, Michael Pellegrino, Benjamin Ofeimu, Kevin Escobar, Nykolas Sessock and Romero started the match in a 3-4-3 formation.
Oluwa Ogunwale (24’), Seth Kuhn (50’), Jason Aoyama (52’), James Simpson (62’) and Nicholas Blacklock (67’) came off the bench.
Tijuana improved to 4-1-0 in tournament play and are second overall with 12 points. LA Galaxy are in third place overall and first place in the MLS group with 10 points after a 1-1 draw with Pumas. The Union are three points behind second place FC Dallas, which beat San Jose Earthquakes 2-0 on Tuesday for their second win of the tournament.
The top two teams from LIGA MX and MLS advance to the finals on Saturday. The Union play Pachuca at 1:10 p.m. Wednesday.