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Union II’s return spoiled by confident Pittsburgh Riverhounds squad

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Hounds put six goals up on a night a trio of Union Academy players make USL Championship debuts

Photo by Matt Ralph

CHESTER, Pa. — After spoiling Louisville City’s new stadium opening on Sunday, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds marked Philadelphia Union II’s return to play Saturday night with a 6-0 win at Subaru Park.

The visiting Keystone rival was sharp in transition and made the Union II defense pay early with a pair of goals off turnovers from former City Islanders forward Ropapah Mensah in the 29th minute and Danny Griffin eight minutes later.

Axel Picazo and Zach Zandi combined to create a couple chances early — three of their four shots on the night and the only one on target came from Picazo inside 10 minutes — but the Bob Lilley-led Hounds showed their experience and sharpness in the final third as the match wore on. They fired off 15 shots, 11 of those on target and had 63 percent of the possession.

Anthony Velarde got on the end of a through ball to make it 3-0 in the 59th minute and Temple grad Lukas Fernandes scored his first professional goal in his second appearance eight minutes later. Steevan Dos Santos scored on his first touch after checking in heading home and came close to getting a hat trick in 10 minutes after notching another goal in the 87th minute.

“We have to feel it,” Union II head coach Sven Gartung said on a Zoom call with media afterwards. “Zero six looks ugly and I wish we could have avoided it, but it is what it is. We have to use the young players.”

For Union II that meant an average age of 19 on Saturday night. At 24, Zach Zandi was the oldest player on the field for the team and one of only three to play Saturday night who was born before 2000.

Goalkeeper Ben Martino was one of three players to make their USL Championship debut in the match. A Pittsburgh native, Martino joined the academy last summer from the Riverhounds Development Academy.

Gartung said Martino was coming off a recent injury. Todd Morton was the lone goalkeeper on the roster under contract until he made the recent decision to retire from professional soccer. Zandi, who grew up with Morton in West Chester and were teammates at Penn Fusion Academy, held Morton’s jersey in the pregame and it was hung up by the bench during the game.

“He was in touch with the group before the match, wishing us luck and so do we for him for his future,” Gartung said. “He was a part of our group and I think it just shows a little bit, this nice little gesture that we are thinking of him and and he’s still kind of part of our group.”

Quinn Sullivan and Jack Jasinski also made their Union II debuts along with 20-year-old Spanish midfielder David Rabadan.

U2 has a quick turnaround to the next game. They host New York Red Bulls II on Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. at Subaru Park.

Philadelphia Union II: Ben Martino; Nathan Harriel, Ben Ofeimu, Jamoi Topey (Jack Jasinski, 45’), Dante Huckaby; Steve Kingue, David Rabadan, Axel Picazo (Selmir Miscic, 78’), Zach Zandi (Danny Flores); Shanyder Borgelin (Saed Diaz, 45’), Yomi Scintu (Quinn Sullivan, 45’)

Substitutes not used: Mitch Budler, Jack McGlynn

Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC: Tomas Gomez; Jordan Dover (Daniel Rovir, 72’), Thomas, Vancaeyezeele, Hunter Ashworth, Ryan James; Kenardo Forbes, Robbie Mertz (Steevan Dos Santos, 81’), Daniel Griffin (Dakota Barnathan, 72’); Anthony Velarde (Lukas Fernandes, 63’), Ropapa Mensah (Mark Forrest, 64’)

Substitutes not used: Daniel Vitiello, Dzhelil Asani