The Philadelphia Union Academy U16 team finally opened their scoring account with a golazo, but three second half goals by Santos Laguna handed the visitors a third straight loss in the LIGA BBVA Bancover International Tournament in Mexico City on Saturday.
Jared Aguirre opened the scoring just three minutes into the match for Santos Laguna, heading home a looping ball in the box to the far post past Tomas Romero.
Unlike in their first two matches - a 1-0 loss to LA Galaxy and a 2-0 loss to Pumas - the Union wouldn’t struggle all game to find the back of the net.
In the 11th minute, Union midfielder Carter Emack collected the ball outside the 18, got a defender going the wrong way and then uncorked a beauty off his right foot to beat the goalkeeper and even the score.
Santos didn’t wait long to respond with Aguirre again beating Romero, this time on a pass from the end line to the left of the goal that he tapped home to the near post in the 16th minute.
The Union would have another quick response, this time on another fine piece of skill from Seth Kuhn, who dropped a ball right into the box behind the defense for Issa Rayyan, who hammered home a rebound after his first attempt was blocked by Santos keeper Bryan Melchor.
Santos Laguna regained the lead, this time for good after the break in the 42nd minute when a corner kick was headed off Union center back Benjamin Ofeimu for the own goal. The home side added goals in the 48th minute from Manuel Lopez and in stoppage time from Marco Esquivel to make it a 5-2 final.
Though the loss keeps the Union near the bottom of the standings in the eight-team competition with zero points (LA Galaxy and Pachuca are tied for first overall with nine points), the goals and the play of Carter Emack and defensive midfielder Guei Bla were both encouraging signs.
Head coach Chris Brewer has been able to run out different lineups and put players in a position they’re often rarely in playing back home, as the underdogs.
His starting XI on Saturday included Romero in goal, Nykolas Sessock, Michael Pellegrino, Ofeimu and Kevin Escobar on the back line, Bla and Emack in the midfield with Rayyan, Kuhn and Nick Blacklock attacking and Chad Letts up top.
Iverson Brisma and Rayshaun McGann, who left Friday’s game after a hard challenge, came in off the bench.
After three straight days of 70-minute matches against stiff competition, the U16s get a break from action today, but will return to the field Monday against San Jose Earthquakes at 11 a.m. Eastern.