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.”