More #UnfinishedBusiness –– Philadelphia Union’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup journey ended where it often began in the past: penalties.
There is no questioning the importance of the Open Cup –– it’s one of only two trophies clubs can win in the United States. Likewise, it’s without a shadow of a doubt just how seriously the Philadelphia Union take the tournament.
Emotions ran high on Wednesday night, when the Philadelphia Union and New York Red Bulls met for the second time in only 10 days, including their third consecutive meeting in the Fifth Round of the Open Cup.
While the Union have gotten the better of the Red Bulls in the Open Cup in previous encounters, their cup run came to an abrupt end, at the point of no return: the penalty spot.
From the beginning, the Union were barraged by attack after attack and forced to weather the storm, with the Red Bulls applying high pressure on Philadelphia’s backline, forcing Rosenberry, Yaro and Co. to play out of the pressure.
Union defenders did not receive much help from their midfield, who were forced to drop back behind the ball to shore up the defense, as the Red Bulls maintained much of the early possession.
They did, however, receive help from goalkeeper John McCarthy, who channeled his inner Andre Blake with a last-ditch thrash of a leg, denying a lurking Sean Davis of a sure early goal in the 9′.
In what was seen as a potential breakthrough for the Union and quite frankly, a gift at the other end, Fabrice-Jean Picault was denied on a breakaway in the 18′ by the Red Bulls’ shot-stopper, Ryan Meara. Picault’s follow up header was then tipped over the bar, setting up an ensuing wasteful corner that petered out like the rest of ’em on the night.
From there on out, it was the home side who looked most threatening and controlled the majority of the possession. In doing so, the Red Bulls managed to limit the Union to no real scoring chances, while setting up a few of their own.
Kemar Lawrence perhaps had the best of the chances for the New Jersey based club, after being carelessly left unmarked by Keegan Rosenberry and missing a free header in front of the net.
To be fair, the Jamaican should have done much better. And to be fair, he should have tied the match. But it was a match chock full of wasted opportunities for both sides, and it was the Union who were ultimately undone in the end.
Home fans were treated to a silky passing sequence from their side in the 38′, which served as a harbinger of what was to come just a few minutes later.
Rosenberry’s poor turnover in the 41′ led to the eventual Red Bulls goal, the only one they would manage to put past McCarthy in regular time. Confidence has been something hard to come by recently for the budding Union defender.
Derrick Jones and Jack Elliot were also at fault for the goal. Neither of the two picked up the goalscorer, Sacha Kljestan, who was allowed to trot into the box and tap in the goal just before halftime.
SECOND 45′ (+)
Things continued to look pretty bleak for the Union, with New York continuing to control possession and dictate the midfield.
Jay Simpson remained a non-factor and was eventually subbed off for Marcus Epps, while Roland Alberg further justified why the Union are actively scouring the market –– or at least, should be –– for a true #10. No offense, Roland.
Ironically enough, it was #10 who sparked life into the Union with an absolute belter in the 85′.
Offense apparently not taken.
Extra time Union was much better than 85′ and below Union. After Alberg’s goal, as well as the injection of Adam Najem into the midfield, it was clear the entire complexion of the match had shifted in favor of the Union, who had the momentum.
Najem was a game-changer. His energy and movement in the midfield seemed to inspire his teammates to dig deep late into the match. The former Red Bulls’ academy starlet was noticeably chomping at the bit, itching to leave a mark against the club that slighted him.
Picault was up for the match, but clearly down on his finishing. He was presented with a similar gift later into extra time, after the home side failed to deal with a ball in the air. Picault botched the breakaway, skying it into the South Ward section of Red Bulls’ supporters.
Union fans can at least appreciate him aiming for those jerk-offs in red.
Not so long after, the Union were dealt an unfortunate blow when CJ Sapong went down with a knee injury. He would make way for Chris Pontius. Curtin said after the match that he thinks Sapong will be ok and ready to go on Sunday, when the Union return home to Talen Energy Stadium to host New England.
Here is to hoping Sapong is, in fact, ok.
McCarthy has been called upon in the past to be the hero on penalties, and he was entrusted with the responsibility once again. Although he guessed correctly on nearly every occasion, McCarthy was unable to save the day for the Union.
It was not to be, as Picault blanked on his third opportunity to score on the night.
Alberg –– Goal
Pontius –– Goal
Picault –– Miss
Epps –– Goal
RED BULLS (5)
Zizzo –– Goal
Veron –– Goal
Royer –– Goal
Kljestan –– Goal
Felipe –– Goal
Ultimately, it was missed chances and the chances not taken that ended the Union’s cup run, not the Red Bulls; they were equally as poor in front of net.
For Curtin’s side, it’s Unfinished Business. It’s back to Philadelphia, back to the drawing board and hopefully back to the training ground, where the team could probably use a few extra shots on goal.
John McCarthy, Fabinho, Jack Elliot, Joshua Yaro, Keegan Rosenberry, Derrick Jones, Haris Medunjanin, Fabrice-Jean Picault, Roland Alberg, CJ Sapong, Jay Simpson
Jake McGuire, Ray Gaddis, Oguchi Oneywu, Ken Tribbett, Marcus Epps, Chris Pontius, Adam Najem