With the biggest match in club history on Thursday, a semifinal Concacaf Champions League clash with Club America in Mexico City, the Philadelphia Union opted to give youth a chance on Sunday night in Foxborough.
In seemingly a throwaway game with the real prize to come later in the week, the Union debuted a completely new lineup, featuring an injection of youth and a three-man back line. In the lineup were teenagers Jack McGlynn, Quinn Sullivan, and Paxten Aaronson. Though the Union came up short, falling to the Revolution 2-1, it was a great look at the future for Philadelphia.
One of the premier academies in the MLS, the Philadelphia Union Academy continues to turn out top prospects. Graduates Brendan Aaronson and Mark McKenzie played massive roles for the Union in one of the best seasons to date last year, and the two homegrown players are making waves in Europe. In a match that could’ve been a one-sided contest on paper, the young academy graduates made an impact, pushing the Revolution to their limits. They played with freedom and looked dynamic and ready for the moment. Despite playing a top side, with a new system and resting players, the Union were up for the challenge.
“I don’t do moral victories so I’m as mad as all of our fans are right now,” head coach Jim Curtin said post-game. “But you know as you do peel back the layers and you look big picture you saw three young kids play against the best team in our league this year on the road and show that they more than belong.”
Paxten Aaronson looks like he could be the next star out of the Union Academy. Aaronson made a big impact early in the match, scoring a beauty of a goal past USMNT keeper Matt Turner in the 31st minute.
After the match, in which he played all 90 minutes, Aaronson said that time froze when he scored his first goal. “Wow, did that really just happen?”
He was very happy to celebrate with his teammates, even though he had no idea what that celebration was. Aaronson said it was amazing to share special moments on the field with Sullivan and McGlynn.
“It was an awesome feeling, the adrenaline rush,” Aaronson said.
While Aaronson grabbed the headlines with his goal, all three players earned high compliments from Curtin.
“Paxten I think raised his level, really did a good job offensively and defensively against the ball; Quinn Sullivan continues to make good plays for us,” Curtin said. “Jack McGlynn, you know, showed his range of passing and his ability to cover some ground. Overall, really happy with those three, for sure.”