The Philadelphia Union overcame a red card and a 45-minute weather delay to defeat DC United 2-1 in the Fifth Round of the US Open Cup on Tuesday night.
Second-half goals from Eric Ayuk and Fabinho erased a first-half strike by DC’s Jairo Arrieta. All three goals came after a questionable 24th-minute red card to CJ Sapong, who was given the card on a routine battle for a header. The referee deemed that Sapong led with his elbow and gave him a straight red card.
Union coach Jim Curtain said, “It’s a mistake by the referee for sure. It wasn’t a contentious game. [The referees] made it a hard night for us.”
Arrieta scored just three minutes after the card. Miguel Aguilar made some nifty moves on the right side of the penalty box and crossed to a wide open Arrieta. The Costa Rican made no mistake, giving his team a 1-0 lead.
Even with the man disadvantage, the Union pushed forward. At times playing with all save the goalie in the offensive have of the field, Philadelphia put together a few close chances. The best chance came in the 42nd minute when Eric Ayuk’s was bobbled by DC keeper Andrew Dykstra. Andrew Wenger would have had a great chance on net on the rebound, but was offside.
The home side’s pressure meant DC could sit back and counter. Aguilar was dangerous down the right hand flank, and only last ditch defending kept the MLS leaders from scoring a second goal. The half came to an end nearly two hours after kickoff thanks to a 45-minute weather delay that stopped the game 14 minutes in.
Philadelphia kept up the pressure in the second half. In the 51st minute, Cristian Maidana played in Ayuk on the right, who crossed to a wide open Andrew Wenger in the middle of the box. Wenger’s shot somehow hit both posts before careening out of the penalty area.
Five minutes later, Ayuk got the goal that eluded Wenger. Sheanon Williams was played through on the left and crossed to Ayuk, who easily tapped home the equalizer.
In the 77th minute, it was second-half substitute Fabinho who put the Union up for good. Intricate passing between himself and Maidana eventually led to the Brazilian getting into the penalty area. Fabinho hit a screamer past DC keeper Andrew Dykstra to put the Union up 2-1.
With the early red card to Sapong, the Union were put in a strange situation of having to play Maidana, normally a creative attacker, in the target forward role. He was effective, playing a part in both goals.
“When your star striker goes out so early, it’s tough to burn a sub. We decided to let that group ride with it,” Curtain said.
With the win, the Union improve to 8-3-2 all-time in Open Cup play. Philadelphia will play the winner of the New York Red Bulls-New York Cosmos matchup in the Quarterfinals. If the Red Bulls win, the Union will travel to Red Bull Arena. Philadelphia will host if the Cosmos are the victors.
FULL MATCH REPLAY: DC UNITED AT PHILADELPHIA UNION