Union Slip and Slide Past D.C. United in a 2-0 Win

The Philadelphia Union capped off their preseason with a win against their rivals, D.C. United, on a rainy afternoon in Chester, PA. The team returned for a week of training and Wednesday afternoon's friendly against D.C. United after it began its preseason in Clearwater, FL. Anthony Fontana netted two goals for a brace in the last of four pre-season friendlies. Andre Blake kept his first clean sheet of 2021, looking to start competitive games with the same rich vein of form that earned the 2020 Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year. Highly regarded for his efforts in the Philadelphia Union's Supporter's Shield winning season, Blake played the full 90 minutes in this match.

Fontana found the game early, scoring his first goal in the third minute after regaining possession of the ball when his cross was deflected. From the center of the 18, Fontana turned the ball through the bottom left corner of the goal. Alongside Fontana, Paxten Aaronson and Quinn Sullivan started to make a front trio of Union Academy products (aka homegrowns). Aaronson and Sullivan, both 17-years old, were signed to homegrown contracts this offseason. They mark an exciting look into the future of the Philadelphia Union after the team transferred out two homegrown MLS Best-XI players Brenden Aaronson and Mark McKenzie.

Throughout this preseason, the young players received chances aplenty to earn their spot in the Union's matchday squad for the congested schedule. Key departures included defender McKenzie and midfielder B. Aaronson, along with fullback Ray Gaddis, previously longest-tenured player on the roster. New homegrowns Paxten Aaronson, Quinn Sullivan, Brandan Craig, Jack McGlynn, and Nathan Harriel featured in each of the preseason friendlies against Orlando City S.C. (twice), Chicago Fire F.C., and D.C. United.

Throughout March, the Union have been dealing with several injuries to key contributors. Forwards Sergio Santos and Cory Burke did not feature in a preseason friendly, and other rostered forwards Kacper Przybylko and Jack de Vries picked up injuries that sidelined them from the last preseason games. Midfielder Jose "El Brujo" Martinez went down in severe pain against Chicago and was immediately removed from the game and missed the upcoming friendly against Orlando. His MRI revealed no break or fracture to his ankle, and he returned to team training on Tuesday. El Brujo returned to the Starting XI for Wednesday's game against D.C., although he appeared to be in some discomfort throughout the first 45' and was subbed at halftime for what appear to be precautionary reasons.

Anthony Fontana put in his second of the day five minutes before the break, connecting with a thundering volley on a cross from fellow homegrown, the third 17-year old Jack McGlynn. After halftime, Andre Blake remained composed behind a rare defensive blunder by Norwegian centerback Jakob Glesnes to parry the shot from D.

Nathan Harriel and Paxten Aaronson made way for Matt Real and Shanyder Borgelin, a forward from the Union's affiliate team "Philadelphia Union II" in the 61'.

In the 76', Philadelphia emptied out its bench, and two offseason acquisitions from abroad made their respective debuts in a Philadelphia Union kit. Stuart Findlay, a Scottish left-footed defender, arrived to the team earlier this week after completing a transfer from Kilmarnock F.C. in the Scottish Premiership. Findlay appears to be an important piece moving forward, to supply depth on the defensive end behind Jack Elliot and Jakob Glesnes, and to fill the major hole left in Mark McKenzie's place.

Leon Flach, a 20-year old midfielder with American citizenship, was signed from St. Pauli in the 2. Bundesliga. Flach earned first-team minutes and scored a screamer off the bench for the German second division side, after rising through the ranks of its academy and featuring for the USMNT U20 team. Officially announced Wednesday, his versatility bolsters midfield depth for the diamond midfield shape in the Union's 4-4-2 system. Long term he could become a significant contributor to the team as the club has options to extend his contract for a 3rd or 4th year. Sporting Director Ernst Tanner identified Flach as a "promising young prospect".

After losing to Orlando twice, and conceding a goal in the pre-arranged "extra-time" in what was a 120 minute friendly against Chicago, a shutout win against D.C. will be a big boost for this squad as they prepare to face Saprissa, a storied Costa Rican soccer club, for the first time in a competitive match in the 2021 Concacaf Champions League. Next, they will return to Florida for training in the heat to better prepare for the playing conditions in Costa Rica. They face Saprissa away on 4/7 at 6:00 p.m. for their first competitive match of 2021. The match will be nationally televised on FS1 and TUDN.

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