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Philadelphia Union U17s draw New York Red Bulls in GA Cup

A Cole Turner equalizer salvaged a point for the Union, which lost out on a chance for a second point in a PK shootout following the 1-1 draw

Union captain Michael Pellegrino gets by a Red Bull defender in a GA Cup match at The Proving Grounds on February 11, 2018
Matt Ralph

A second half equalizer off the left foot of Cole Turner from about 25 yards out earned the Philadelphia Union U17 team an important point in Generation adidas Cup action at The Proving Grounds in Conshohocken on Sunday.

Turner, making his first appearance in the GA Cup after being out for the first three qualifiers in October, took advantage of the goalkeeper being off his line and delivered the all important equalizer off a pass from midfield partner Michael Pellegrino, who wore the captain’s armband on his return from preseason training camp with the first team in Florida.

“I think we never really doubted that we were in the game, it’s just they got one early and we were able to get one back,” Pellegrino said after the game. “I kept telling Cole shoot from long I know you got a good shot, one of them is going to go in if you keep shooting and it did. Having that pay off was really nice.”

The Red Bulls worked their high press to perfection to produce the early goal from forward Balthazar Saunders in the fourth minute. It was the second of the competition for Saunders.

“They came out really sharp, really fast and just pressed us absolutely everywhere; our boys were just a little bit of paralyzed,” head coach Gary Lewis said. “We need to learn lessons from that, try to just ease the pressure up when it’s right in our face like that, but that’s part of player development.”

The Union responded from the early blow by keeping it to just the goal deficit the remainder of the half and had a good run of play to open the second half that eventually led to Turner’s equalizer.

“As the game progressed they tired a little and we started moving the ball a lot faster, getting it into wide areas and we got a foothold on the game,” Lewis said.

The final 10 minutes was end to end with the Red Bulls getting a slight edge on scoring chances, hitting the crossbar and failing to capitalize on a strange play where they were awarded an indirect kick inside the 18.

There were some other nervy moments on the defensive end for a Union back line anchored by JD Wagner and Ian Graham in the middle and Donovan Wu and Antek Sienkiel as fullbacks in front of goalkeeper Eoin Gawronski but also some bright moments on the counter attack down the flanks from Axel Picazo and Jason Aoyama.

“It’s always good playing against these (MLS) teams,” Lewis said. “They’re so close and you know each other’s styles so well.”

In the PK shootout, the Union missed a penalty on the first attempt and had another saved. Reserve goalkeeper Lukas Burns, who replaced Gawronski in goal late in the match, made one stop but it wasn’t enough as the Red Bulls earned the extra point from a shootout win with an otherwise commanding shootout display.

“It’s good we took something today, against a really tough team,” Lewis said. “They’re one of the top teams in the country.”

Going into the final weekend of regional qualifying for the competition, the Union are tied on points (9) in first place with Atlanta United. Both teams have two games to play since Atlanta picked up a 3-0 win over Orlando City in a one-off game of their own. New York Red Bulls are second with 8 points but have three games left to play.

The Union play D.C. United on February 17 and NYCFC on February 19 in Atlanta. The top two teams in the standings will advance to the Champion Division at the GA Cup finals, while the other teams will be seeded into the Premier Division. International teams are seeded into both divisions.

2018 GA Cup East Region Standings

Team GP W L D PK (+1) Pts G GA GD
Team GP W L D PK (+1) Pts G GA GD
Philadelphia Union 4 2 0 2 1 9 9 3 6
Atlanta United 4 3 1 0 0 9 10 7 3
New York Red Bulls 3 2 0 1 1 8 9 3 6
New York City FC 3 2 1 0 0 6 8 3 5
DC United 3 1 2 0 0 3 6 8 -2
Orlando City SC 4 0 3 1 1 0 3 11 -8
New England Revolution 3 0 3 0 0 0 0 10 -10