In non-pandemic times, the Power Training Complex would normally be hosting Generation adidas Cup qualifiers over the holiday weekend but the Philadelphia Union U17 game on Saturday had a much different purpose.
In a friendly against West Chester United, a Union U17 team unbeaten in the early going of the MLS Next season (3-0-0) had the challenge of facing a more experienced group of mostly college-age players.
Early on the difference in age didn’t seem to phase the Union U17s as they came out playing their style and forcing the issue creating a number of chances with their pressing style. Anthony Ramirez picked off a pass off a deep throw in and laid it off in the box to Gael Medrano, who weaved his way through a pair of defenders and put the hosts up 1-0 early.
Ramirez had another great pass in transition to set up Nelson Pierre minutes later, but Nelson Pierre was denied by the goalkeeper to keep it 1-0. The Union continued to create a number of chances but it was West Chester that went into the break with the 2-1 lead after Spencer Burkhardt’s long free kick found its way in the back of the net and a deflected cross fell to a wide open Chris Donovan in the box for the finish.
West Chester made it 3-1 after some combination play between Donovan and Sam Brown led to a ball from Ayo George that found Ryan Kingsford at the far post for a left footed finish.
Brown added to the West Chester lead when he received a pass from Burkhardt, turned and took it straight up the gut and buried the finish with a left footed strike across his body.
After the 90 minutes was up the two teams played 20 minutes of extra time and went to penalties. Joe Adoo-Peters added a goal from the penalty spot in the extra period to make it 5-1 on the day and West Chester United won the shootout 3-2.
With Union II off for the week after their USL Championship season ended, Quinn Sullivan played in the match with the U17s while Brandan Craig was off. Academy newcomer Bajung Darboe, a 2006-born former Minnesota United player from Madison, Wisconsin, played his first game with his new team and showed flashes off the bench of why he was so heavily recruited by teams across the country.
Up next, the U17s will travel to Virginia to take on DC United on Saturday.