The Union’s U.S. Open Cup magic ran out in penalty kicks on Wednesday at Harvard University’s Jordan Field, as they were eliminated in the quarterfinals by Brad Knighton and the New England Revolution, 1-1 (4-2).
“It’s a tough way to end the game,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “Credit to New England, their guys stepped up, hit their PKs and they’re moving on. It’s difficult for us right now, our locker room is upset. There’s only two trophies you can lift in this country and we’re out of the competition for one of them.”
For the first time since 2013, the Union will not be in the Open Cup championship game. Meanwhile, the Revs advance to the Open Cup semifinals on Aug. 10, when they will face the Chicago Fire at a location to be determined.
“You have to tip your cap to New England, they had a good game tonight,” Curtin said. “Jay (Heaps) does a good job with them.”
It wasn’t a strong night of penalties for the typically game Union, as Sebastien Le Toux and C.J. Sapong were stuffed by Knighton on weak attempts. On the other side, Andre Blake was able to stop Scott Caldwell but unable to keep Je-Vaughn Watson from winning it for the hosts.
“You work on them in training, but nothing can really recreate a crowd here and the pressure,” Curtin said. “We’re disappointed for Seba, he’s one of our best at that. At the end of the day, it’s a crapshoot. We weren’t the better team today.”
The conclusion may have been just for the Union, who trailed the entire match.
Staring down elimination in the 90th minute, Ray Gaddis, on the right side, pushed it to Le Toux in the box. With a defender draped on him, the Frenchman shielded possession before tapping a pass to Fabian Herbers, who collected it and bounced a shot through Knighton and in, tying the match at 1-1 and sending it to added extra time.
Blake was the player of the game for the Union, finishing the match with seven saves.
He kept the match tied in the first half of added extra time with back-to-back stops — an aggressive diving stop on Andrew Ferrell, followed by a stunning right-hand save off Kelyn Rowe’s rebound.
“He’s good at soccer,” Curtin said. “He’s a good goalkeeper. He’s special, he can make a big save that can win you a game. When we do get broken down, he’s there to bail us out. He’s playing in top form.”
Watson caught the Union sleeping in the 44th minute, when he snuck past an unset Union back line and accepted a set piece pass from Diego Fagundez. With time, Watson’s shot easily beat Blake to the right post for the early lead.
“At the end of the first half, we fall asleep on restart,” Curtin said. “It’s disappointing to give up a goal like that when we have numbers back. Two guys switched off for a second. For me, that’s the centerback’s job to be screaming and organizing. Ilsinho may have fallen asleep for a second, they played short and caught us.”