Philadelphia Union rue missed chances in Open Cup loss to NYRB

Jun 28, 2017; Harrison, NJ, USA; New York Red Bulls defender Kemar Lawrence (92) an Philadelphia Union forward Fafa Picault (22) battle for the ball during penalty kicks at Red Bull Arena. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 28, 2017; Harrison, NJ, USA; New York Red Bulls defender Kemar Lawrence (92) an Philadelphia Union forward Fafa Picault (22) battle for the ball during penalty kicks at Red Bull Arena. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports /

For the third straight year, the Philadelphia Union’s road to the US Open Cup round of eight must go through the New York Red Bulls.

The Philadelphia Union let a trip to the final eight of the Open Cup slip through their hands. It was a tale of two halves as the Union absorbed pressure throughout the first half before exploding in the second half but it wasn’t enough as they fell 5-3 in penalties.

The game didn’t start off on the right foot for the Philadelphia Union as they weren’t able to cope with the early pressure from New York Red Bulls. Kemar Lawrance and Sal Zizzo overwhelmed the Union defense as they weren’t ready for Jesse Marsh’s 3-4-2-1 formation. Luckily thanks to the duo of Jack Elliott and John McCarthy, the Philadelphia Union were able to hold off pressure from NYRB.

In the 18th minute, Fafa Picault missed a golden chance as he was one on one with NYRB backup keeper Ryan Meara but he blasted the chance straight into Meara’s hands. A few minutes later, the Philadelphia Union caught a break as Aurelien Collin injured his hamstring on a back pass to Meara. This forced an early substitution with Connor Lade replacing Collin.

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Red Bulls didn’t miss a beat and they were finally rewarded for their efforts in the 42nd minute. Bradly Wright-Phillips got a ball and was able to hold off Joshua Yaro while Sacha Kljestan ran into space. Once Kljestan got past Fabinho, Wright-Phillips found him for the easy finish to put Red Bulls up 1-0.

That advantage would last until the half when the Philadelphia Union would finally get a chance to regroup. While they came out of the break with the same personnel, it was a much more composed team with Elliott and Yaro stepping up to intercept passes before Red Bulls got a chance to attempt a shot.

In the 61st minute Marcus Epps came on for Jay Simpson (we forgive you if you forgot that Simpson played today, at times so did we) and the attack immediately picked up. The issue then became that the Philadelphia Union were creating chances but they weren’t finishing them. CJ Sapong, Haris Medunjunain, and Picault routinely were firing the ball over the goal and Jim Curtin did nothing to rectify the situation.

He waited until the 82nd minute to make his second sub and only did that because of an injury to Derrick Jones. Former NYRB academy member Adam Najem was brought into the game and immediately began to pester his former organization as they began to tire. Soon after he was subbed on New York fell asleep at the wheel gifting the Union a great chance.

Jack Elliott played one of his now patented long balls to Roland Alberg who beat the entire Red Bulls backline. The defense thought he was offsides but the whistle never came and he finished his chance to tie the game. At this point, it began to look like a winnable game for the Philadelphia Union.

New York Red Bulls were tiring and there would be an extra 30 minutes of soccer to be played. Again missed chances would come back to bite the Union as they seemingly had a shot on goal on every time they got into the attacking third of the field but converted none of them. In stoppage time during the first period of extra time, CJ Sapong went down with what Jim Curtin was labeled as a cramp and was replaced by Chris Pontius.

This led to a fluid striker situation with Pontius, Epps, and Fafa all taking turns being the point of the attack but again, they were more content aiming to shoot the ball out of the stadium then they were to put a shot on frame. To add to the frustration, the one shot that Fafa actually put into the net was called off thanks to it being offsides. And you know what happens when a game is tied at the end of regulation, penalties!

But that’s okay because the Philadelphia Union have Open Cup hero John McCarthy right? The same John McCarthy who was once subbed on because he is good at saving penalties? The same guy who was 6-0 in US Open Cup games that he started? Not exactly…

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The Philadelphia Union eventually fell on penalties because again, Fafa Picault couldn’t finish his chance missing his penalty. To add insult to injury Filipe finished it off for New York sending the Union crashing out of the cup. Next up is a home match against the New England Revolution on Sunday for the Union. The less said about this match, the better (which is ironic since I just wrote 700+ words on it)