Philadelphia Union Academy’s U17 side dominated play on Sunday afternoon with over a dozen set pieces but couldn't break through and fell to the Sacramento Republic, 1-0, at MLS NEXT Flex.
The U17s came out on the front foot, dictating the tempo and style as they sought to erase the memories of their opening day result. The Union brought the high press all over the pitch to regain possession and play direct but the California side withstood the pressure.
Philly got some early chances from set pieces with Alex Perez having a look on goal in the 12th minute that required a huge stop by the Republic wall to prevent the curler from going in as the keeper was caught watching. Perez again was the playmaker four minutes later with a corner kick floated to the goal line that required a reaction punch from the keeper.
The Union’s front three tried to break the contest open just before the half hour mark as David Vazquez collected a long volley from the back line and went to work. The forward cut to his left and took a pair of touches before unleashing a left-footed blast that forced a diving stop by the keeper. Perez again had a pair of set piece creations with an in-swinging cross connecting with Sal Olivas header that was blocked at the near post. The following corner saw the Boys in Blue go for the same play with Olivas playing the dummy pass to set up a Edward Davis shot at the back post that was turned aside.
With the big defensive stops in the first half hour of play, Sacramento took control over the final 15 minutes. With the midfield congested by the Boys in Blue, the California side sought to attack the space on the flanks when the Union were pressed high but center backs Neil Pierre and Daniel Krueger stayed in sync to clear the danger away. In the 38th minute Sacramento nearly opened the scoring with a free kick chance that went to goalkeeper Andrew Rick but was bobbled near the post but cleared out for a corner. After a defensive stop, the Union turned defense into offense as they launched a counter attack that saw a long-range shot from Edward Davis saved.
Sacramento broke through just before the break with a long diagonal ball unlocking a scoring chance for the California side. With a 1v1 opportunity, Sacramento’s Ezekiel Padilla cut inside to get an inch of space before firing a shot that snuck inside the near post for the 1-0 lead in the 44th minute.
The Boys in Blue nearly went into halftime tied up after Rick made a big save and quickly put the ball back into play. Rick’s toss took the Union up the left side of the attack via Davis with his speed. As the end line approached, the forward sent a cut back pass to John Andrus for the one timer that went right at the keeper and right into the air but somehow into the keeper’s gloves.
U.S. Youth National Team Call-Up C.J. Onley entered the contest at the break as the club pushed for the tying goal and earned a corner in the 51st minute. The ensuing corner came from Perez as he whipped a ball right to the PK spot for a shot from Davis that was cleared off the line.
With Philly pushing high up the pitch for a goal, goalkeeper Andrew Rick was tested and made a pair of huge saves early in the half. After making a reaction save minutes earlier, Rick topped it in the 55th minute with a set piece stop. The visitors pushed numbers around the U17 keeper to obstruct the play which saw a headed chance but Rick made the point blank stop.
Diego Roccio nearly tied things up on his first touch of the match as Onley broke into space on the left side of the attack and whipped in a back post cross for the substitute but couldn’t connect.
In the 70th minute the Union continued to attack through Onley with Sacramento scrambling to get a block as the volley went for Davis at the near post. The Boys in Blue continued to maintain constant pressure with four corner kicks in a matter of moments but unable to break through.
Philly kept pushing with more set piece chances with captain Daniel Krueger seeing his header in the box saved by the keeper with five minutes left.
In the 90th again Olney again was into space on the left side of the attack. Getting near the corner flag and 1v1 against his defender, he whipped in a cross for David that again was blocked for a corner. With the kitchen sink in the box waiting for Perez’s 15th corner of the match, Pierre rose up to smash a header on frame but was remarkably saved at the line by the keeper.
The U17s wrap up their play at MLS NEXT Flex in Maryland on Tuesday, May 16th with their final group stage match against FC Golden State. Kick off is set for 8:30AM ET from the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, Md.