The Philadelphia Union U15 team’s run to the MLS Next Cup final ended in defeat, but Ryan Richter’s group will return home from Frisco, Texas with plenty of lessons and unforgettable memories.
Real Salt Lake scored goals each side of halftime and their goalkeeper Fernando Delgado was there to deny the Union’s comeback attempt in Friday night’s final played inside Toyota Stadium, the home of FC Dallas.
RSL opened on the front foot and struck first in the 15th minute when Izahi Amparo weaved his way through the box to beat a couple defenders and set up Jude Wellings for an easy finish.
The Union created some chances of their own, including a couple free kicks from dangerous spots taken by Bajung Darboe — the hero of the semifinal after joining his age group for the first time this season — but RSL was well organized defensively and Delgado was sensational in goal in the moments he was called upon.
RSL’s insurance goal came in the 65th minute off a corner kick that Evan Pickering was able to get a head to and flick off the head of Gavin Wetzel and in. They nearly found a third on a break for Axel Kai but Rick showed why he was named goalkeeper of the competition with a save to deny the golden boot winner.
In addition to the free kick attempts, Darboe had a bid for an equalizer just go wide of the post when the score was still 1-0 and was denied from point blank range by Delgado on a play set up by Medrano that would’ve cut the lead to 2-1 with a generous amount of stoppage time still to go past the 80 minutes of regulation.
Head coach Ryan Richter went to his bench to try to find a spark but it was starter Medrano who helped create a number of bright moments as time ran down. The final ball just wasn’t there on the day for the Union, however, including on a bizarre indirect kick in the box Medrano tried unsuccessfully to sneak through the wall Delgado.
In the end, the Union U15s weren’t the ones celebrating with a trophy but they have every reason to be proud of the season they had and the experience so many promising young prospects gained advancing twice on PKs and playing in a final in an MLS stadium.
The game officially marked the end of the 2020-2021 MLS Next season for the Philadelphia Union Academy, but continue to check back here on Brotherly Game for news about additions to the academy ahead of another season starting in August.