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Union U17s look to make most of home field advantage in first leg of GA Cup qualifiers

The Union picked up eight points at home last year, but failed to qualify for the top division in the finals

Union midfielder Julian Anderson in the GA Cup East regional qualifier in October 2017
Matt Ralph

Philadelphia Union U17 head coach Gary Lewis spent a lot of time last season reflecting on the team’s performances in the Generation adidas Cup.

But he’s done talking about it to his players, which includes a core group of returners — Julian Anderson, Adam Lenges, Ian Graham and Aboubacar Camara among them — and is instead focused on the individual MLS opponents they will face in the annual competition.

“I’ve tried not to speak about last year,” Lewis said. “We just need to focus on each game in front of us.”

The Union come in with some momentum after a fruitful nine-hour bus ride to Montreal last weekend and their second win over an MLS academy opponent. The Union beat the Montreal Impact 2-0 with a couple of late goals after coming back to top New York City FC to open the season on a couple late goals. The team has also posted wins over Virginia Development Academy and Bethesda SC to start the Development Academy season.

Nine of the team’s 12 goals have come in the second half and four of the goals they’ve scored against MLS opponents have come in the 75th minute or later.

“Going into the last 15 to 20 minutes of the game, we’ve been stronger and fitter than our opponents,” Lewis said, crediting the athletic development staff for their work.

Selmir Miscic led the U15 team to a successful run of games in the GA Cup U15 friendlies last year and will look to do the same with the U17s this year as a professional
Matt Ralph

The U17s have a rematch with New York City FC to kick things off Friday morning at 10 a.m., a 12:30 match against New England Revolution on Saturday and a Monday game against Orlando City at 12:30 p.m.

“I’m really looking forward to the atmosphere and excited to see how we match up against other MLS teams,” said Anderson, who is playing in his second GA Cup at the U17 level. “I’m anxious to get out there with the guys and try to come out with some good results.”

U.S. youth international Selmir Miscic, who recently signed a pro deal with Bethlehem Steel FC and made his U19 team debut last weekend in Montreal, will be a player to watch along with fellow youth internationals Patrick Bohui and Danny Flores. Bohui and Miscic were part of the U15 friendlies at the competition last year. The U15 level will have finals for the first time in this year’s edition.

Flores joined the team in the summer from Shattuck-St. Mary’s and has made a noticeable impact already.

Scouts, agents and college coaches will be present throughout the weekend. The YSC Academy students not on the U15 or U17 rosters will also be there to cheer on their classmates.

“It’s a big event,” Lewis said. “There are a lot of people coming down to watch.”

Regionals will also kick off in Toronto and Utah. A total of 21 MLS academy teams will be competing. The top two teams in each region plus two wild card teams will qualify for the Championship Division along with international teams at the finals in Frisco, Texas in the spring while the rest of the teams will be seeded in the Premier Division with international opponents.

The Union last qualified for the Championship Division in 2015.