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Philadelphia Union U17s overcome two-goal deficit to win U17 MLS Next Cup

Marcos Zambrano Delgado led the Union to the comeback win with a brace and finished as the top scorer in the competition

FRISCO, Texas — For the second straight year a Philadelphia Union Academy team found themselves trailing 2-0 in a final at Toyota Stadium, but unlike a year ago they were able to erase the deficit and take home the spoils in a remarkable 3-2 comeback win.

Marcos Zambrano Delgado scored a pair of goals and David Vazquez added another to erase the Crew’s two-goal lead and lead the Philadelphia Union U17s to the top of the MLS Next mountain. Zambrano finished as the tournament’s top scorer with seven goals over the five games played in eight days.

The Crew advanced to the final with four straight penalty kick shootout wins, including one in the quarterfinals over the Union’s local rival FC Delco and their goalkeeper Stanislav Lapkes flashed some of the skill early against a Union team that created a number of chances but couldn’t put one in the back of the net. The Crew took a lead through a PK in the first half and doubled it less than a minute into the second half.

That matched the final score a year ago when Real Salt Lake beat the Union U15s 2-0 in the final. Four players who started in that final also started Sunday night — goalkeeper Andrew Rick, center backs Gavin Wetzel and Danny Krueger and midfielder Alex Perez — and Rick was called on early to make a couple saves but couldn’t keep the penalty out despite getting a hand to it.

The Union responded to the 2-0 deficit well and nearly found a way back through a Perez free kick that hit the crossbar and a shot from Devon Decortes Lapkes was just able to get a hand to to knock out for a corner. The ensuing corner from Luke Martelli started the comeback when Zambrano got to the ball first and headed it home to make it 2-1 in the 54th minute. The momentum shift led to more bright attacking moments — Zambrano hit the left post on a shot minutes later — and the equalizer in the 67th minute when Luciano Sanchez served a cross right to the head of David Vazquez for the finish.

From there, the Union had all the momentum and were just waiting for the moment to win it, which came when Zambrano and Sanchez combined again and Zambrano in space slotted home in the 73rd minute.

The Union was able to see out the final 17 minutes of regulation plus five minutes of stoppage time in the Texas heat and will come home with the academy’s first MLS Next Cup trophy and fourth overall trophy. It’s the first title for an academy team since a U12 team won the Generation adidas Cup in December 2019. The academy won the U13 Concacaf Champions League in Costa Rica in August 2019 and a U17 team coached by Jim Curtin won the 2012 Generation adidas Cup.

Starting XI:

Andrew Rick, Luke Martelli (90’+2 Devon Stopek), Gavin Wetzel, Daniel Krueger, Francis Westfield (Noe Uwimana 72’), Devon Decorte, Alex Perez, Logan Oliver (90’+2 Luke Zielinski), David Vazquez (Nelson Pierre 73’), CJ Olney (Luciano Sanchez 46’), Marcos Zambrano-Delgado (Marcello Mazzolla 72’).

Subs Not Used: Jonathan Evans, Antonios Horozoglou, Jack Andrus