By Sam Kelly
The Union fell to the New York Red Bulls 1-1 (5-3 on penalties) in the Round of 16 in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup last night at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey.
Goalie John McCarthy came up big early as Sean Davis had a golden opportunity to give Red Bull the lead. Davis was on the doorstep but his shot was denied by a sprawled out McCarthy in the ninth minute to keep the match scoreless.
Nine minutes later, the Union had their best chance of the first half. After the speedy Fafa Picault was able to get behind the Red Bull defense, the winger found himself all alone with just the keeper to beat. Picault sent a shot on frame, but Red Bull goalkeeper Ryan Meara blocked the attempt.
The sequence wasn’t over just yet. Picault was able to line up for a header off the rebound, but the shot was deflected by a Red Bull defender towards the top of the goal, but Meara steered the shot over the bar keeping the match at nil-nil.
Red Bull had a chance to break through in the 25th minute as Jamaican international Kemar Lawrence slipped behind the Union defense inside the 18. Lawrence was fed a pass in the box, but was unable to find the back of the net on his diving header and the match remained scoreless.
New York finally broke through in the 42nd minute thanks to their captain Sacha Kljestan. After a Union turnover, Sean Davis gained possession and fed Bradley Wright-Phillips inside the 18. Wright-Phillips was able to find an open Kljestan who finished the build up to give Red Bull a 1-0 lead going into halftime.
Less than 10 minutes into the second half, Philly created a chance as Roland Alberg sent a missile into the box that was just beyond the reach of striker CJ Sapong’s foot.
Both clubs exchanged chances throughout the second half, but the Union turned on the pressure in the final 20 minutes of the match. Sapong was inches away from tying the match in the 73rd minute.
Sapong was fed a ball from Derrick Jones and immediately sent a shot towards goal, but the attempt banged off the post and Red Bull cleared the threat. Moments later Sapong had another chance to tie the match as the striker slipped behind the Red Bull defense but his shot was sent wide.
The Union were finally able to tie the match in the dying moments of the contest. In the 86th minute rookie defender Jack Elliott sent a long ball across the pitch and found a wide open Alberg in the Red Bull defense. Alberg sent a rocket off his right foot and tied the match sending the contest to extra-time.
Philly controlled the tempo in extra-time, but were unable to find the game-winning goal and the match headed to penalty kicks. Philadelphia and New York traded successful penalties until Meara stopped Picault’s effort. The block proved to be vital as moments later New York’s Felipe found the back of the net to give New York the victory in penalties.
The Union return to action this Sunday when they take on New England Revolution in an Eastern Conference clash. Kick-off from Talen Energy Stadium is set for 5 p.m. and will be televised nationally on FS1.