After a pair of losses through the first four games of the competition, the Philadelphia Union U17s head to Atlanta in need of six points to keep alive the hopes of qualifying for the Championship division of the 2019 Generation adidas Cup.
Through 12 games in league play, the U17s have the second best record in the country at 11-1-0 but that hasn’t translated thus far in regional qualifying for the GA Cup. The Union were shut out 1-0 by NYCFC in the first game of qualifying in Chester back in October and fell 2-0 to New York Red Bulls at a game at the Red Bull Training Facility in December. They beat Orlando City 2-0 and picked up two points from a 3-3 draw with New England Revolution in October.
“It’s easy going down there saying we just have to win two games, but it’s D.C. United and Atlanta,” head coach Gary Lewis said. “It’s going to be tough but that’s what we want. We need these difficult games and we need to expose the boys to these environments.”
The Union will qualify for the tournament and be seeded against international youth teams either way, but 11 points would give them a shot at qualifying for the top division. The teams that don’t qualify end up in the Premier division.
Lewis will have a full complement of players with him in Atlanta, including Bethlehem Steel FC pro Selmir Miscic, prolific goal-scorer Patrick Bohui and fellow U.S. youth international Jack de Vries.
“We just feel it’s important to put them in that environment in a pressure situation against good opponents,” Lewis said.
U.S. youth international midfielder Danny Flores, who got minutes for Steel in a preseason game against D.C. United in Florida, will also be with the group along with his former Shattuck-St. Mary’s teammate Antino Lopez. The 2002-born center back from Las Vegas is joining the Union as a guest player for the weekend.
Two players who won’t be with the team are winger Willie Burnett and starting left back Zephyn Brockert-Kress, who both left the program over the winter break.
The U17 team had a warm-up match on Sunday at Penn State against Columbus Crew.
“Great opposition, played a different way, it was a bit tricky to play against the way they build,” Lewis said. “First half they dominated and we changed tactically second half and we dominated.”
The U17s play at 1 p.m. Friday against D.C. United and Atlanta on Monday at 2 p.m. The U15s, which sit atop the table in their age group with nine points through four games, play D.C. United at 10 a.m. Friday and Atlanta United at 11:30 a.m. on Monday.