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Epps scores, Union top South Florida 5-1 in scrimmage

Marcus Epps got a goal against his alma mater while Cory Burke added a brace and Steel defender Olivier Mbaizo had a pair of assists.

Trey Madara -

Marcus Epps scored against his alma mater and first-team newcomer Cory Burke registered a brace and drew a penalty in the Philadelphia Union’s 5-1 win over the University of South Florida in a scrimmage on Tuesday night.

Epps, a Jackson, Mississippi, native who starred with the Bulls from 2013 to 2016, found the back of the net in the 67th minute.

“It was a nostalgic game, being able to play, focusing on what I have to do, as well as watching the style of play that I love and I played for four years,” Epps said after the game. “It felt a little weird to score on the team. I didn’t celebrate just because I bleed green and gold as well.”

CJ Sapong scored his second goal of preseason just three minutes into the match and Burke gave the Union a chance to double the lead when he was fouled in the box in the 39th minute. The ensuing penalty kick from Fabian Herbers was saved, but the German bounced back with the Union’s second in the 44th minute before South Florida responded with a goal off a corner kick seconds later.

“I wanted to take the PK, get a little bit of confidence, you know it’s my second game in like 8 or 9 months so I just want to get that first goal again and then I missed it,” Herbers said after the game. “Two minutes later I had a good touch, a good hit and it felt just great to get the first goal like that.”

Steel FC defender Olivier Mbaizo recorded his second assist of the night on Herbers’ goal. The 20-year-old Cameroonian youth international played at both outside back positions.

Burke, a Jamaica international who signed with the first team after spending two seasons with Bethlehem Steel FC, registered his first goals for the Union in the 70th and 82nd minutes.

Head coach Jim Curtin used 24 players, according to the Union’s coverage of the game on Twitter and its website. Defender Matt Real, goalkeeper Andre Blake, midfielder Eric Ayuk and midfielder Fafa Picault were not mentioned and Philadelphia Union Academy trio Brenden Aaronson, Tomas Romero and Michael Pellegrino did not play.

“Overall, a good exercise for our guys. We were able to push the fitness, had a lot of the starters in with the first 30 minutes, kept the tempo high,” Curtin said. “Credit to South Florida, they actually came here and tried to play which is always a real positive. They didn’t just sit in with all 11 guys behind the ball so that was good for us.”

The match was played at Joe DiMaggio Sports Complex in Clearwater and was the second scrimmage for the Union since arriving in Florida last week. The New York Red Bulls topped the U on Saturday in a 135-minute match 4-3.

Up next, they’ll play the Chicago Fire on Thursday at 11 a.m. at the Joe DiMaggio Sports Complex before ending the first of two preseason sessions in Florida.