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Brilliant second half sparks Union II comeback win over Chicago



Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Union

Coming off a 5-1 loss against New England Revolution II, it would have been easy for Marlon LeBlanc’s Union II side to approach their difficult away match against Chicago Fire II on Sunday night feeling disheartened and demoralized. Chicago was coming into the match with a 2-1-0 record, sitting near the top of the Eastern Conference, while Union II were firmly at the bottom of the table. However, LeBlanc’s lads were up for the challenge.

Although, early on it didn’t quite seem that way. Chicago’s attacking players, spearheaded by Missael Rodriguez, were constantly dangerous on the counter and in wide areas and in the 13th minute, they found their goal. A mistake at the back by Union II led to a breakaway for Rodriguez who slotted home the match’s opening goal past the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Holden Trent, making his first appearance for Union II.

Later in the half, Trent would get his redemption. Another Chicago breakaway from a counter saw Trent on an island with a Chicago forward, but a miraculous leg save from the former High Point Panther kept the match at 1-0. And despite a few half-chances created by a couple moments of individual brilliance from Union II right back Anton Sorrenson, the match remained 1-0 in favor of Chicago as the halftime whistle sounded. Work to do.

LeBlanc’s team talk in the changing room must have sparked something within the young Union II squad, because they came out in the second half as a completely different team. 

That was evident early on, when a pair of beautiful services from 17 year-old David Vazquez found the feet of Chris Donovan, who couldn’t quite find the finishing touch. 

Union II remained dangerous and finally found the breakthrough in the 70th minute when squad captain Brandan Craig was taken down inside the box to draw a penalty kick. Craig then calmly stepped up to the spot and smashed home the equalizing goal in the 71st minute, breathing new life into his team. 

Then, just 10 minutes later, Sorenson made a darting solo run before slotting a lovely ball into the path of Nelson Pierre, who squared the ball across the box to an unmarked Vazquez who finished off the move and put Union II into the lead. The goal was a testament to the attacking work from Sorenson and Vazquez, who were pulling the strings throughout the match and were constant threats to the Chicago backline.

What followed was a period of chaotic moments for the Union II backline. However, they stood strong and an onslaught of Chicago chances resulted in no goals. And with that, Union II held on to take all three points, their first points of the season. 

Now, LeBlanc will hope that his side’s resilient second half performance will spark a run of good form as they look ahead to their next match against Toronto at home on April 23. 

CHI – Missael Rodríguez 13’
PHI – Brandan Craig (PK) 71’
PHI – David Vazquez (Pierre) 81’

PHI – Boubacar Diallo (caution) 36’
CHI – Sergio Oregel (caution) 50’
CHI – Henrique Gallina (caution) 59’
CHI – Missael Rodríguez (caution) 75’
PHI – Gino Portella (caution) 85’xxxcxcxxxccccc

Philadelphia Union II: Holden Trent; Juan Castillo, Gino Portella, Brandan Craig, Anton Sorenson, David Vazquez, Boubacar Diallo, Richard Odada, Jeremy Rafanello (Stefan Stojanovik 65’), Chris Donovan, (Luciano Sanchez 79’), Nelson Pierre (Francis Westfield 90’+1’).

Substitutes not used: Brooks Thompson, José Riasco, Luke Martelli, Nathan Nkanji, Devon Stopek, Andrew Rick, Anthony Ramírez, Pedro Álvarez.

Chicago Fire FC II: Spencer Richey; Alonso Aceves (Justin Reynolds 52’), Kendall Burks (Henrique Gallina 46’), Wyatt Omsberg, Jonathan Dean, Harold Osorio (Luka Prpa 46’), Sergio Oregel, Richard Fleming, Alex Monis (Billy Hency 84’), Missael Rodríguez, Noeh Hernandez (Omari Glasgow 67’).

Substitutes not used: Mihaljo Miskovic, Charlie Ostrem, Eric Leonard, Michael Nesci.

Hunter is a writer/contributor for Philadelphia Soccer Now/Brotherly Game covering Union post-game analysis, MLS league-wide news and other stories from the world of footy. He has been covering the Union since 2021.

Copyright © 2024 Philadelphia Soccer Now and Brotherly Game

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