Union

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 surging into U.S. Open Cup final, 'deserve to be' the champs

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Union surging into U.S. Open Cup final, 'deserve to be' the champs

CHESTER, Pa. — With back-to-back wins over two of the league’s hottest teams, the Union are heading into their third U.S. Open Cup final on Wednesday with the wind at their back.

“This group deserves to be champion,” boasted Fabinho, who captained the Union’s largely reserve squad on Sunday at Talen Energy Stadium. “We know how hard we work every day, everybody. We deserve to be champion on Wednesday and we are ready for this game.”

The confidence was palpable following a 2-0 win over Western Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City on Sunday. Saving the legs of almost all consistent starters, and with goalkeeper Andre Blake falling ill just before kickoff, the Union went with a largely untested group and came out with the victory, thanks to a pair of second-half goals from Jay Simpson.

Other than Simpson and Fabinho, the list of Union starters included Oliver Mbaizo, making his MLS debut, Derrick Jones, Warren Creavalle and John McCarthy.

“We’re on a good run of form at the moment,” said Simpson, who made his first start of the season on Sunday and also contributed to the Union’s midweek win in Seattle against the Sounders. “I’m sure a lot of people didn’t even fancy us to get a result today with our starters missing out on the game because of the Open Cup. We beat some big sides.”

With one loss in their last eight matches, the Union are surging into the title game. Wednesday's match against the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium will mark the third time the Union have appeared in the Open Cup championship since 2014. They’ve lost the other two - a fact fresh in the mind of Fabinho, who noted that the club's success of late has changed the dynamic.

“I feel different this year,” he said. “I don’t know why, I can’t say how or why, but I feel different. I feel like we’ll be the champions, you know what I mean. I know the game will be very tough, I know Houston has a good team.”

More importantly, the past struggles have given the confident Union valuable perspective.

“We have guys who work here every day, some guys come here at 5 AM to work for us, help us,” Fabinho said. “The fans are here every weekend, the staff, we have a lot of people behind us. When we go for this game, we have to play like it’s the last game of our lives. It’s important for us, but it’s important for many people behind us.”

Reserve-heavy Union stun SKC with a shutout

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Reserve-heavy Union stun SKC with a shutout

BOX SCORE

CHESTER, Pa. — With the U.S. Open Cup championship match Wednesday in Houston, the Union showed extreme caution Sunday by leaning on a secondary squad to challenge one of the league’s best teams in Sporting Kansas City. 

They still came away with the win. 

Alejandro Bedoya assisted two Jay Simpson second-half goals as the Union defeated SKC, 2-0, at a rainy Talen Energy Stadium. In his first start of the season, John McCarthy earned the six-save shutout. 

• After a back-and-forth, and ultimately lifeless affair throughout the first half, the Union struck gold in the 71st minute. Auston Trusty’s lofty pass found the head of Bedoya, who beat his defender and directed the pop-up cross to Simpson, whose pinpoint one-timer beat Tim Melia for the 1-0 Union lead. 

• But the Englishman wasn’t done. For good measure, Simpson scored his second in the 89th minute, again from Bedoya, as the Union claimed the stunning 2-0 win. 

• The victory pushes the the Union six points over the Montreal Impact for the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference, and one behind the Columbus Crew for fourth at 14-12-4. SKC moves to 15-8-6 but retain control of the top spot in the West. 

• The goals were Simpson’s second and third in a Union uniform and opened his 2018 account. Saturday was just the forward’s fifth start in two seasons for the Union, but he made an impact. The two assists gave Bedoya six on the year. 

• With a match last week in Seattle, and the upcoming Open Cup title game scheduled for Wednesday, the Union started a unique lineup that included Oliver Mbaizo at right back, Fabinho at left back and Simpson at the lone forward position. 

• Borek Dockal, Mark McKenzie and Trusty were the only Union regular starters to begin the game against Sporting Kansas City’s top choice squad. If Union manager Jim Curtin was honest, he’d admit a draw would have been an acceptable result against one of the Western Conference top teams. 

• In the 55th minute, Curtin pulled Dockal for Bedoya. With Wednesday’s match looming, both players were on minute restrictions. The Union’s reserve No. 10 player, Anthony Fontana, played Friday for Bethlehem Steel and was unavailable. 

• More Union changes occurred in the 63rd, when Fafa Picault joined the match for Fabian Herbers. Picault was coming off a 93rd game-winning goal in the Union’s midweek surprise win over the Seattle Sounders. Keegan Rosenberry replaced Mbaizo, who was making his MLS debut, in the 85th minute.