It was another night of firsts for the Philadelphia Union II on Wednesday night in their return after three straight postponements due to Covid-19 cases, but despite a late rally they were unable to get a result against visiting Atlanta United 2.
Paxten Aaronson scored his first goal, Brandan Craig became the youngest player to wear the captain’s armband in team history and Sean Bettenhausen made his USL Championship debut in the game at Subaru Park, which was the first for the team since they beat New York Red Bulls II at home on August 5.
“For a lot of guys you know just kind of going through some of the protocols and things like that, we just haven’t had a whole group to train,” interim head coach Marlon LeBlanc said after the match. “But we’ve kept them engaged and kept them involved as much as we can over video. We’re preaching about the improvements, sticking to to what we believe in and the core tenets of what this club’s supposed to be about in terms of how we want to play and I think you’re seeing it, you’re seeing a group of guys that are starting to grow a lot.”
After being outscored 17-4 in their first four games back from the coronavirus suspension of the season, Wednesday night was Union II’s second straight one-goal game.
“I said to the boys, a month ago a month and a half ago we were six nil on the wrong side of things and tonight, the fight and the perseverance to get back into the game was there, a couple mistakes cost us a couple of goals,” LeBlanc said.
The visitors opened the scoring just before halftime when Micky Diop was able to fire a shot past Mitch Budler, but the other two goals didn’t come until a frenzied second half stoppage time beginning with Atlanta doubling their lead through a play a couple Union II players will want to forget. It started with a throw-in that was cleared backward toward the U2 goal and was then chipped toward Budler, who was unable to keep the ball out for good as the ball fell to David Meija at the far post.
Paxten Aaronson was able to wake the offense up with a chipped shot off a deflection the Atlanta goalkeeper was unable to hang onto six minutes into stoppage time. Aaronson had one last chance to try and tie the match up when he served a dangerous free kick into the box but Atlanta was able to defend it and the 50-50 ball was ruled a goal kick when it went out to end the match.
“I thought Paxten came on and immediately impacted the game, and that’s what he what he can do,” LeBlanc said, noting that he would have brought him in sooner but that with so many games coming the minutes are being carefully distributed.
The appearance was the 17-year-old’s first since signing a homegrown deal with the first team that kicks in January 1.
“It was obviously nice to get into the game and make an impact,” Aaronson said. “It’s one you’re always going to remember so I was just happy, kind of relieved to get that goal.”
Philadelphia Union II: Mitchell Budler, Dante Huckaby, Anthony Sorenson, Jack Jasinski (Steve Kingue 72’), Brandan Craig, Axel Picazo (Jamoi Topey 89’), Luis Flores, David Rabadán (Paxten Aaronson73’), Sean Bettenhausen, Selmir Miscic (Saed Díaz 62’), Anges Bohui
Substitutes not used: Benjamin Ofeimu, Ben Martino, Jack McGlynn
Atlanta United 2: Vicente Reyes, Patrick Nielsen, Jack Gurr, Mou Jadama, Caleb Wiley, William Reilly, Baboucarr Njie (Daniel Steedman 60’), Abdoulaye Diop (Jackson Conway 45’), Phillip Goodrum (David Mejia 86’), Jerome Williams, Amadou Macky Diop (Amir Bashti 69’)
Substitutes not used: Matthew Edwards, Ben Lundgaard, Coleman Gannon