Nearly 20 weeks since they last took the field for a competitive game, the Philadelphia Union II are happy to be back and ready for the challenge the Pittsburgh Riverhounds will present when they visit Subaru Park tonight at 7:30 p.m.
“We come in with a big smile because we have a perfect place to train, the facilities are awesome,” head coach Sven Gartung said in a press conference on Wednesday. “We love what we do and we put our heart on the pitch every single day. We want to show that on Saturday.”
The team that will take the field will have a bit of a different look than the one that opened the season in Chester on March 7 against Loudoun United. Four players from the starting lineup that night are not with the team — Matt Freese, Jack de Vries and Cole Turner are with the first team in Florida and Tyger Evans has reported to Penn State.
Issa Rayyan, who played the second half at right back that night, is unavailable for selection after breaking his nose. Goalkeeper Todd Morton, who was on the bench that night, is no longer with the team, opting to retire from soccer after one season as a pro.
The long-awaited announcement of defender Nathan Harriel’s pro contract was made on Friday. Harriel gives the Union II the minimum 12 players on USL deals required by the league. Harriel will be added to the first team roster in January.
With five subs available, Gartung will be able to have a larger bench and could give some younger players their first taste of professional soccer tonight. Paxten Aaronson and 2004-born players Quinn Sullivan, Brandan Craig, Sam Jones and Jackson Gilman have been training with the team.
With Morton no longer on the roster, Gartung will choose from a staple of academy keepers to play tonight. This means Ben Martino, a Pittsburgh native, could be in line to start against his hometown team. Martino joined the Union Academy from the Riverhounds Development Academy last summer. Another option is USYNT goalkeeper Mitch Budler, a Nebraska native, who has battled injuries since joining the academy last summer from Shattuck St. Mary’s.
The Riverhounds are playing just their second game of 2020 after spoiling Louisville City FC’s first game in their new stadium on Sunday with a 3-1 win.
“It’s going to be a tough challenge for us but a good one,” Gartung said. “We try to find a balance — we develop players and we have a style of play. We want to be able to upset some teams, we want to see how far we can go.”
Fans will not be allowed at tonight’s game at Subaru Park, but the game will be broadcast live on ESPN+.
How to Watch
What: Philadelphia Union II vs Pittsburgh Riverhounds
Where: Subaru Park, Chester Pa. (closed to public)
When: Saturday, July 18, 7:30 p.m.