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Union II get revenge on Revolution II thanks to late heroics



Photo by Don Robson

Coming into Philadelphia Union II’s second match of the 2024 MLS Next Pro season against New England Revolution II, Marlon LeBlanc and company were riding high after their 2-1 win over Toronto FC II on opening day. However, since the conception of MLS Next Pro, Revs 2 have had the better of UII. So much so that last season, when Revs II had their choice of opponent for their first round playoff match, they selected Union II and went on to beat them for the third time of the 2023 season. So when LeBlanc and the boys in blue saw this matchup on the calendar, they had to have revenge on their mind. 

But early in Sunday’s matinee, it looked like more of the same. In the 9th minute, Revs II debutant Alex Monis got onto a ball in the box and clinically buried the match’s opening goal to put New England II ahead 1-0. And for the next quarter hour or so, Revs II dominated the match as Monis, Cristiano Oliveira and the New England frontline found space on the wings and in behind the Union II backline. And considering LeBlanc was forced to make five changes to his side from the Toronto win last week due to players leaving for international duty and first team call-ups, this kind of start was not surprising. What was surprising, was how Union II reacted to getting punched in the mouth.

In the 33rd minute, from a short corner, Kyle Tucker sent a ball into the box that took a deflection from a Revs II defender and found the back of the net. All of a sudden, the match was all square and U II had life again. After the goal, it just sort of felt like Union II began to believe that they could win the match. They began to strike a bit of fear in the Revs II backline, became dangerous on the counter attack and in wide areas and gradually took a bit of control back at the end of the first half. 

To start the second half, it looked as if Union II would continue to build on their momentum. Straight away, in the 46th minute, Jamir Berdecio played a lovely, curling ball that found Eddy Davis III’s head, but his effort went wide of the target. Then in the 54th minute, Davis III found himself in a dangerous position again when he weaved his way through the Revs II backline before sending a strike on target that forced a save out of Revs II goalkeeper Maxwell Weinstein. However, Union II’s joy in the attacking half was fairly short-lived in the second half, as New England II began to regain their foothold on the match. Revs II manager Richie Williams made a few second half substitutions, bringing on the likes of Malcolm Fry, Gevork Dirabian and Joshua Bolma, and it changed the outlook of the match. The subs constantly threatened Union II’s defense, but somehow could not find the back of the net. 

But in the 56th minute, Marlon LeBlanc made an impactful substitution of his own. In the most highly anticipated MLS Next Pro debut of the 2024 season, 14-year-old Cavan Sullivan entered the match and made his professional debut. And just 25 minutes after his entrance, he made a difference. Picking up the ball deep in Union II’s own half in the 81st minute, Sullivan sent a beautiful, direct ball into the path of Sal Olivas, who did a fantastic job driving with the ball and then unleashing a belter of a finish into the bottom left corner of Revs II’s goal to put the Union II in front 2-1. Sullivan had his struggles in the match, but this moment showed that the young player touted by some as the best 14-year-old prospect in the world, may already be able to hang at the professional level. 

The remainder of the match was an all-out defensive battle for LeBlanc’s side. They staved off chance after chance from Revs 2, and when the final whistle blew, they had done it. They exorcised their demons against New England II and found a way to get their second win in as many weeks. The boys in blue will be looking to extend their tremendous start to the 2024 campaign on Thursday, March 28, against Chicago Fire FC II.

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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