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An early look at the 2021 Philadelphia Union II roster

While they are no longer in the USL Championship, there will still be a team competing in 2021

Shanyder Borgelin in a friendly against Christos FC in October 2020
Morgan Tencza

While news about the Philadelphia Union has been slow and eerily quiet, news and information related to the second team has been all but non-existent since the team played a series of postseason friendlies in the fall.

The Philadelphia Union II will not be competing in the USL Championship, opting along with a handful of other MLS teams instead to join a new MLS Reserve league that hasn’t been officially unveiled yet.

Just three signed players are currently on the Union II roster after offseason roster moves were announced: Shanyder Borgelin, Selmir Miscic and Ben Ofeimu. USL rosters were required to have a minimum of 12 players under professional contracts not counting first team players on loan.

It’s not clear how MLS will handle rosters in the new leagues and if there will be any requirement for pro contracts but more flexibility in that area would enable the team to provide even more playing opportunities for amateur academy players looking to earn first team homegrown deals.

Here’s a look at how the roster is shaping up for 2021.

Goalkeepers

Ben Martino (2002) and Mitch Budler (2003), who are both 18, split time in goal in 2020. Ian Turnbull (2004) was a new addition to the academy in late 2020 from Illinois. Martino has a verbal commitment to join Virginia Tech in the fall. Owen Moore (2004) is a regular starter for the U17 team and is verbally committed to Army for 2022.

Outside Backs

Left back Anthony Sorenson (2003) showed very well in his time in ULS last season and could be considered one of the top prospects in the team. Behind him, Jackson Gilman (2004) has been playing more left back. The right side is a little less clear now that Nathan Harriel is on the first team and Issa Rayyan is no longer with the club. Jack Jasinski (2003), who was a Swiss Army knife for the team in terms of positional flexibility last season, has played there and new recruit Noe Uwimana (2005) will get a chance to prove himself there. Nelson Pierre (2005) was recently moved from forward to right back for the U17s so he’ll be there as well.

Center Backs

Ben Ofeimu is the veteran at the position but it’s not clear what the club’s plans are for him since the 20-year-old saw his minutes reduced last season. Perhaps a loan to a USL Championship club would make sense for him to try to find footing. Mansour Diop featured at right center back for the team in the post-season friendlies. The former Pennington School star has been with the team and taking classes at YSC Academy for a while now but was never rostered during the USL season. He’s raw — he was a forward for Pennington — but is a commanding presence on the back line. Dante Huckaby (2003) is committed to Louisville for the fall and has alternated between center back and holding midfield throughout his time with the Union. Samuel Jones (2004) has spent time with the U.S. U17s and has verbally committed to Wake Forest for 2022.

Midfielders

Selmir Miscic (2003) hasn’t been able to make good on all of the promise he showed when he was signed to a USL pro contract at 15 but he’s also had to adjust from a system that favored him to one where he hasn’t always been favored. Diego Lopez (2005) was brought in from San Diego Surf in October but has already impressed with his poise and maturity as a holding midfielder with first team potential. Anthony Ramirez (2004) had a really strong start to the MLS Next season and fit in well in the midfield during the post-season friendlies as a creative playmaker. Sean Bettenhausen (2003) is committed to join Jeff Cook’s Penn State squad in the fall. Danny Flores (2002) returned for a post-grad year to compete with Union II in the fall but is committed to Virginia Tech so it’s not clear if he’ll be back or not.

Forwards

Shaynder Borgelin (2001) missed most of the 2020 season with an injury so it’s hard to say where he is at this point in terms of his development but he still had a ways to go in his quest for a first team contract when he last played. He was recently named to Haiti’s provisional roster for the upcoming Olympic qualifiers so that could end up being a good platform for him to reintroduce himself. Caden Stafford (2003) had a strong showing at the end of last season with his hold up and attacking play with a pair of goals and two assists. He’s committed to the University of Maryland. Gael Medrano (2006) and Bajung Darboe (2006) are arguably among the most exciting attacking duo the Union have ever had in their academy but both are still very young (Darboe turned 14 in December). Newcomer Marcos Zambrano (2005) is an Ecuadorian youth international who looked good in his appearances during the post-season friendlies in the fall.


That’s a total of 23 players on this hypothetical roster not counting first team players should they be able to compete with the team (first team players were limited in this area in 2020 because of Covid-19 protocols).

There were 30 players on the final roster released ahead of Union II’s final game in USL last season. The roster included first team players Matt Freese, Jack de Vries and Cole Turner and the five homegrown players who were added to the roster this January: Nathan Harriel, Jack McGlynn, Paxten Aaronson, Brandan Craig and Quinn Sullivan.

Departures from the players who were under pro contracts included Zach Zandi, Issa Rayyan, Saed Diaz, Yomi Scintu, Steve Kingue, David Rabadan and Jamoi Topey.

Lukas Burns (Providence) and Elias Thomas (San Francisco) are on college teams this spring and Axel Picazo, who logged 940 minutes as an amateur last season, does not appear to be returning to the team. Thomas was a roster addition late in the season who never featured for the team. Patrick Bohui left the Philadelphia Union Academy in the fall to join FC Cincinnati’s academy.