Men’s Soccer challenges Philadelphia Union

Andrew Nichols

Pedro Carneiro wins a ball off one of the Union players. Photo Credit: John Shippee.
Pedro Carneiro wins a ball off one of the Union players. Photo Credit: John Shippee.

The Philadelphia Union showed UNF players what it takes to achieve aspirations of being a professional player, beating the Ospreys 9-1 in an exhibition match at Dewey O. Boster in Deltona, Fla.

While the result speaks for itself, the experience taken from this game is what mattered to the collegiate players.

Standing on the other side of the field were the likes of Maurice Edu, Conor Casey and Sebastien Le Toux. Both Edu and Casey have played for the US Men’s National Team with Edu having taken part in the World Cup four years ago.

The exhibition was held in a different format than a regular game, playing three 30-minute periods for coaches to evaluate players and make more rotations.

Head coach Derek Marinatos said it was a great chance for his players to compete against a professional team and that the score was not something he was concerned about.

“Overall pleased with the experience and thankful for the opportunity to play against the Union,” Marinatos said. “From the standpoint of our guys, I’m proud of our program. The result wasn’t important, just the format for them. They’re in preseason and for us, we just started our spring season.”

Marinatos added that the team has only been able to practice with coaches present for two hours a week due to NCAA restrictions, but is impressed the team has been playing together outside of scheduled hours.

The Union’s second overall draft pick, Pedro Ribeiro, opened up scoring in the first few minutes after connecting on a cross sent in from Danny Cruz. UNF were under pressure for much of the game, finding spurts of possession going forward but had to defend against constant attacking from Philadelphia.

Recalling being in the same spot just last year, Ribeiro said it was great to play against an opponent rather than training against each other as always.

“It’s great for all of them. I was on the other side last year, still in college, and had the opportunity to play against a pro team. It’s a great feeling,” Ribeiro said. “It’s great to play games against different guys because we practice against each other everyday and were able to go in a little harder on tackles since we can’t in practice.”

Casey Caronis said the experience from this beneficial game will only help with the future of the program.

“We did some really good things and it’s only going to help us with our spring games and going into the fall,” Caronis said. “We showed well on some things tonight and there were things we could’ve done better.”

US Men’s National Team member Maurice Adu goes in for a challenge on UNF’s Alex Morrell.  Photo Credit: John Shippee.
US Men’s National Team member Maurice Adu goes in for a challenge on UNF’s Alex Morrell. Photo Credit: John Shippee.

UNF’s speed of play had to pick up against the pace of the Union, who were moving the ball quickly and opening up the defense of the Ospreys throughout the match.

Despite the Union bringing out some of its star players early on, the first period ended with the score at 2-0 with a last minute goal from Danny Cruz.

The second period was much of the same with UNF defending heavily but keeping the Union out of the net until the 17th minute. The second period ended 4-0 with Philadelphia adding two more goals.

The third period proved to be the toughest for UNF, who were outscored 5-1, but earned an important goal. The Union’s Antoine Hoppenot earned three goals against Kyle Nasta in the final period to try and prove himself worthy of a spot on the team.

Alex Morrell had a standout performance, among a few other players who represented UNF very well, scoring a goal in the 6th minute of the third period.

A whipped-in ball from Demetri Zervos found Morrell inside the box with time to settle quickly and fire a shot, maintaining composure on the ball. Morrell’s shot found the upper corner, lifting the UNF bench in cheers.

Morrell said it was good to see the team improving and to score a goal.

“We were having fun out there. We definitely improved a lot as a team, no arguing and it was great to play with the team,” Morrell said. “It was exciting. Demetri went down the line and played a great ball to me. I took my time and just finished.”

The Philadelphia Union’s head coach John Hackworth said he’s impressed with what Marinatos has done with the program and that this game was beneficial for the Union as well.

“For us it’s just about an opponent. We’re working hard in double days during the middle of preseason, trying to implement some practical things and anytime you can play an opponent it helps,” Hackworth said. “I think Derek is doing great at UNF, you can see that his team is organized and they were motivated to play today and played very well.”

This match counts as one of the spring game dates UNF is allowed, with four more dates available to them.

The experience UNF received from this game alone is a crucial landmark in the program’s progression. The opportunity to play teams such as the Union is something Marinatos previously said he wanted to make a reality.

Casey Caronis looks for a long ball during the last period of play. Photo Credit: John Shippee.
Casey Caronis looks for a long ball during the last period of play. Photo Credit: John Shippee.