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Philadelphia Union Academy reopens season against familiar rival Continental FC

U18 and U16 teams both post wins in Conshohocken

Matt Ralph

Brothers, classmates, friends and former teammates squared off in Conshohocken on Sunday as the Philadelphia Union Academy and Continental FC both reopened their seasons with a local derby.

In the U18 game, it was Tiger Graham with a brace to lead the Union to a 5-1 victory over younger brother Max Graham’s team. The older Graham continued his torrid goal-scoring pace with two second half goals to bring his season total to 17.

Defender Mark McKenzie opened the scoring in the 37th minute for the visitors and Darius Lewis also had a goal for the Union in the second half. A 62nd own goal rounded out the scoring for the Union while Gabriel Ivins had the prettiest goal of the day for Continental in the 68th minute, a long range strike from near the edge of the 18 that beat goalkeeper Jahmali Waite.

The game was the first official league match of 2017 for the two teams, but many of the Union players featured in the game have spent significant time training and playing for Bethlehem Steel FC in their preseason. Justin McMaster, Josue Monge, Waite, Dawson McCartney, McKenzie, Freeman Dwamena, Evan Godfrey and Lewis all played on Sunday having already made appearances for Steel in preseason games. Midfielder Brenden Aaronson made his U18 debut when he checked into the game in the 62nd minute.

On the Continental side, goalkeeper Aaron Schwartz was forced to make several saves from point blank range to keep the home side in the game as the Union sent waves of attacks in the second half. The Dartmouth commit was one of several players on the field for Continental who share a classroom with Union players at YSC Academy, a feature that adds to the intrigue of the rivalry between the two youth clubs.

With the win, the Union U18s improved to 10-2-1 on the season while Continental fell to 3-8-3.

As it was in their first meeting in the fall, the U16 game was a tight affair that saw the Union twice come back from one-goal deficits to win 3-2.

Jeremy Rafanello opened the scoring for Continental with the first of two goals on the day in the 9th minute, but nine minutes later Sean Smolyn put things on level terms with an equalizer against his former club in his debut for the Union U16s.

Tied 1-1 at the break, Rafanello again put the home side up with a 60th minute strike but back-to-back goals from Oluwaola-ayo Ogunwale and Aziz Saidi in a minute span handed Continental a second straight heartbreaking loss to the Union. Rafanello, who has verbally committed to Drexel, has a team best 11 goals.

For the Union (7-3-3), the win helped them stay within striking distance of Atlantic Division leaders Baltimore Armour and evened Continental FC’s record at 6-6-2 on the year.

The Union U14s won 4-1 behind first half goals from William Burnett, Zephyn Brockert-Kress and Adam Lenges and a second half strike from Tianshuo Yang. Noah Reid scored the lone goal for Continental in the 70th minute.

Jack Roberto canceled out a 26th minute goal from Luc Mikula to give the Union U13s a 1-1 draw. The U12 games ended in a 1-1 draw and a 3-1 win for the Union. Marcello Mazzola converted a penalty kick in the 32nd minute after an own goal in the 17th in the first game. In the second game, Nelson Pierre had a brace and Ian Abbey added a goal for the Union while Ethan Williams found the lone goal for Continental.