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Union Academy teammates flourishing as freshmen at South Florida

Josue Monge and Fred Gil return to Philadelphia Saturday to play Temple in the regular season finale

Adjusting to college life far away from home can be challenging for an 18-year-old, but Philadelphia Union Academy grad Josue Monge knew when he arrived at the University of South Florida in August that a former teammate and classmate would be right there with him.

That this teammate, left back Fred Gil, is originally from West Palm Beach, Florida only helped smooth the transition for the Philadelphia native, who along with Gil has helped contribute this season to a Bulls roster that experienced plenty of roster turnover (Philadelphia Union midfielder Marcus Epps included) and a head coach departure in the offseason.

“It was an easy transition to be roommates with someone I’ve known for a while,” Gil said in an interview after the Bulls tied highly-ranked Louisville 1-1 back in late September. “It’s something we were looking forward to for a while.”

The game against Louisville on September 26 was significant for both Gil and Monge as both players experienced firsts, Gil his college debut as a substitute late in the first half and Monge his first regular season goal.

“I’m just happy to help the team in any way possible,” Monge said of his goal, the first of two the midfielder has scored so far this season to go along with one assist while starting all but three of the team’s 15 games. Gil has appeared in all nine games since making his debut.

“Josue does a great job and his attitude is fantastic and he’s cerebral and pretty bright,” first-year head coach Bob Butehorn said after the Louisville game. “And Freddy jumped in, it was his first game today, and he played very well. Credit to the Philadelphia Union and having these guys not blown away by what this game meant.”

While this particular game was just a month into their season, the trip to Louisville was the duo’s second to the Midwest for a team that has logged some 6,000 miles for road games this season on trips to Omaha, Bloomington, Memphis and Tulsa.

“Especially as freshmen you know starting the year playing in those three big places is a good experience,” Monge said of the team’s early season treks. “Creighton, that’s a tough place to play and Indiana had freaking fireworks.”

Traveling during hurricane season also threw a wrench in things as the team ended up stranded by Hurricane Irma in Atlanta, where Atlanta United graciously hosted them for three days.

“We all had it in the back of our head we were going to get stuck somewhere and thank god it was Atlanta,” Gil said. “Atlanta United gave us nothing but the best. It was a great experience.”

The Bulls have one final trip to end the regular season on Saturday and it will be a homecoming for both players when they take on Temple back in Philadelphia.

Temple needs three points to qualify for the postseason while South Florida needs just a draw to clinch a spot in the American Athletic Championship semifinals.

The trip will certainly be special for Gil and Monge, but Butehorn has a Philadelphia connection of his own through his wife and the Bulls first-year Director of Operations Jeremy Hurdle grew up in Ambler, Pa.

“Personally, it’s huge for me to go back home and play,” said Monge, who grew up in Northeast Philadelphia and played for FC Feltonville and FC Delco before joining the Union. “It will be good to see some family and friends and just be back in my hometown.”

Saturday’s game is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. at the Temple Sports Complex off Broad and Master streets.