U.S. Open Cup

Union ousted from U.S. Open Cup with 'devastating' loss on penalty kicks

Union ousted from U.S. Open Cup with 'devastating' loss on penalty kicks

Goalkeeper Ryan Meara stopped Fafa Picault and Felipe did the rest, catapulting the New York Red Bulls over the Union in the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16, 1-1 (5-3), in added extra time penalty kicks on Wednesday night at Red Bull Arena. 

“It’s devastating for the guys,” Union manager Jim Curtin said to reporters. “I couldn’t be prouder of the group in terms of the effort we put in. I thought we showed a lot more fight, a lot more heart, a lot of grit, balls, guts, whatever your adjective is, we had more of it.”

Roland Alberg and Chris Pontius kept pace with the Red Bulls early in penalties, but a heroic diving stop by Meara on Picault was the difference. Red Bulls veteran Sacha Kljestan gave his club the 4-2 lead but was matched by rookie Marcus Epps, opening the door for Felipe to finish the contest. 

“I missed,” Picault said to reporters. “I shot it and he made a good save. It hit the post and that’s it.”

Despite guessing correctly on nearly all of the Red Bulls’ attempts, Union backup keeper John McCarthy was unable to make a stop. Meara finished with one.

After qualifying but losing in the tournament’s title game in 2014 and 2015, the Union failed to make it out of the quarterfinals last season. This year, the club, which defeated the Harrisburg City Islanders in its first match, wasn’t able to survive the Round of 16.

Meanwhile, the Red Bulls advance to face the New England Revolution on July 13 at Harvard University’s Jordan Field. The Revolution defeated D.C. United, 2-1, on Wednesday.

Trailing by one and after nearly 90 minutes of futility, Alberg and the Union hit gold in the 86th. Launching a long-ball pass into the box, Jack Elliot stunned the Red Bulls’ back line as the volley landed at the feet of a nearly offside Alberg. The Union No. 10 turned and fired off a shot that beat Meara far side to lock the match at 1-1.

“Roland Alberg put in an incredible shift in terms of work rate and effort,” Curtin said. “Character to come back, this group has that.” 

But that wasn’t the only scoring chance for the Union. Despite shaky defense early, the Union owned the game’s first great opportunity, when Picault, whose finish was suspect all game, broke free on a breakaway in the 18th minute. His low shot was sloppy and body-stopped by Meara to keep the game scoreless. 

“We had them on the ropes in their building and we didn’t quite finish them off,” Curtin said. 

It was one of 27 attempts on goal throughout the contest for the Union.

“We created enough to win,” Curtin said. “We should have won tonight.”

While the Union missed chances, the hosts took control. In the 41st minute, Bradley Wright-Phillips pounced on a Josh Yaro turnover and slid a centering pass to Kljestan, who easily placed his shot through McCarthy and in for the 1-0 advantage at the half.

“We have to regroup and refresh,” said Curtin, whose club is set to face the New England Revolution on Sunday at Talen Energy Stadium. “This is why our sports science department gets the big bucks. We’ll be ready to go.”

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

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."

Union rally to reach Open Cup quarterfinals amid ejection-filled finish

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USA Today Images

Union rally to reach Open Cup quarterfinals amid ejection-filled finish

CHESTER, Pa. — The Union’s U.S. Open Cup magic continues. 

Extending their quest for a third consecutive Open Cup title run, the determined Union came from behind to topple the New York Red Bulls, 2-1, in the Round of 16 on Wednesday night at Talen Energy Stadium.

“That’s a big-boy win, because that’s a good Red Bull team,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “I thought we stood up in the second half and showed we’re a darn good team, too.”

As victors, the Union advance to the Open Cup quarterfinals, where they will visit the New England Revolution on July 20. The Union’s Open Cup record extends to 10-2-0 over the last three tournaments and 14-6 all time.

“We’re happy with this result and whoever we play next, it’ll be another fight,” Union veteran Brian Carroll said. “We’ll be up for the challenge when it comes. But we want to enjoy this now.”

Wednesday was a match of two completely different halves for the Union. 

“Players win games, coaches lose them and referees ruin them,” Curtin said. “It’s all credit to my players, it doesn’t have anything to do with me.”

The hosts were utterly dominated by the Red Bulls' high press in the first half, getting outshot, 13-1, and trailing, 1-0, when a free kick played into the box deflected off Chris Pontius and right to Mike Grella. The forward powered his shot to the right of Andre Blake for the 17th-minute lead.

“I tried to inform our team that in the second half Philly was going to pick it up,” said Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch, whose club was outshot 7-3 in the second half. “That they were going to get laid into by their coach because they got their butts whipped in the first half."

And Marsch was right. In the 55th minute, a perfectly played through ball from Ilsinho found a streaking Pontius, who split the Red Bulls' defense, gathered the ball and fired off a right-footed shot past Ryan Meara to tie the match at 1-1.

“I see [Ilsinho] has some space, I see they’re playing pretty flat-footed, so I made a run across,” Pontius said. “He plays me a great ball, and at that point I know Meara is going to be coming out, so I tried to chip it over him at the back post.”

With momentum leaning heavily in the Union’s favor, the pair connected again in the 60th minute. Off the rush, Tranquillo Barnetta slung a right-wing pass to Ilsinho, who, while on the move and with the Red Bulls' defense closing, launched a cross that landed at the feet of Pontius, who one-timed it home for the 2-1 Union lead.

“We were able to break pressure. That was the major turning point,” Union midfielder Warren Creavalle said. “Once we were able to break pressure, we forced them to spend a little more energy and we were able to put the game back on our terms.” 

The match unraveled in stoppage time when Union assistant coach Mike Sorber was ejected for tossing a ball onto the field of play. Moments later, Marsch was ejected for arguing a call. On his way out, Marsch picked up two game balls from the scorekeeper’s desk and chucked them at the Union bench, before storming off.

“I had to try to induce change with the referee somehow because he was basically calling every foul for the Union,” Marsch said. “Laughable.”

Curtin, a former teammate and current friend of Marsch, said the Red Bulls coach wasn’t aiming for him with his ball throw, but that the sight of Marsch red with anger brought back memories.

“Jesse and I are good friends from old times,” the coach said. “But I like to beat him and he likes to beat me. We’re competitive. I think it’s the heat of the moment. Jesse was upset with the referees, obviously. Maybe lost his temper a bit, but I’ve seen that face before in training sessions and it still does make me smile.”