Union

Union kick off U.S. Open Cup with win over Harrisburg City Islanders

CHESTER, Pa. — In seven years of U.S. Open Cup tournament participation, the Union have never lost to the Harrisburg City Islanders, going 3-0-0 over that span. 

That streak continued against the USL side on Wednesday.

With first-half goals from C.J. Sapong and Derrick Jones, and a two-assist effort from Jay Simpson, the Union easily dispatched Pedro Ribeiro and the City Islanders, 3-1, in the fourth round of the Open Cup at Talen Energy Stadium. 

"These games are tricky," Union manager Jim Curtin said. "I don't want to say nothing good can come of it, but we're expected to win. We're expected to be the team that takes care of business. The only time it really gets talked about is if we lose a game like this tonight. It's a tricky game."

With the victory, the Union, who received a bye up to this point in the tournament, advance to the Round of 16, which happens on June 28. The time, opponent and location will be determined on Thursday. 

"We'll have to look at the pairing now and see who we get paired up with," Curtin said. "But as a club, the Philadelphia Union want to take this competition very seriously."

Controlling play early, the Union opened scoring in the 18th minute on an effortless play. While holding the ball up at the top of the box, Simpson slid possession over to Jones, who placed a delicate, right-footed shot through traffic and between Sean Lewis and the right post for the 1-0 advantage.

"It was a great goal," Jones said. "I was moving up and Jay had the ball and he just laid it out for me and I finished."

Simpson, who started next to Sapong, Marcus Epps and Roland Alberg up front, found his second assist just 15 minutes later when he dished to Sapong on the right side of the box. The Union leading scorer buried the left-footed finish for a 2-0 lead.

"If I can contribute to help the team in any way, that's what I try to do," said Simpson, who is behind Sapong on the Union depth chart at forward. "You want to score, you want to create goals, and at the end of the day, we all want to win. So I was glad I was able to give a couple assists."

Despite the deficit, the City Islanders weren't ready to pack it in. The USL side cut the Union lead in half in the 37th minute, when Paul Wilson beat Jack Elliott at the right side of the Union box. The play caused Josh Yaro to cover for Elliott and Keegan Rosenberry to move inside for Yaro. Wilson then sliced a cross-box pass that evaded the Union defenders and landed to Jonathan Mendoza, who found the goal.

"They score the goal and that gives them a little bit of life," Curtin said. "And you can feel that momentum, but credit to the guys for starting the second half, that was the key, the first 15 minutes of the second half."

It was Union rookie Epps that would end the visitor's hope. Breaking down the right side, thanks to a long-range outlet pass from Haris Medunjanin, Epps beat his man and climbed in alone on Lewis.

"Haris played the ball in well," Epps said. "There was space in behind and I tried to cover it down and get to it as quick as I can and hit the open space." 

Epps slipped a nifty touch between the goaltender and closing defender for his first professional goal, sealing the 3-1 Union win.

"It was tough," he said. "The keeper did well, but I saw the little gap so a slow roller, I thought, would work best."