The Philadelphia Union, playing with 10 men for 80 minutes, won a PK shootout with the New York Red Bulls to punch their ticket to the Semifinals for the second year in a row. Despite Conor Casey’s straight red card in the 40th minute, the Union scored the first goal in the 55th minute through Eric Ayuk. They were less than a minute away from winning the match in regulation until Lloyd Sam equalized deep into second half stoppage time to send the game into extra time. Philadelphia goalkeeper John McCarthy, who came up big on a number of occasions for the Union, made two saves and Bradley Wright-Phillips missed his attempt to give the visitors a 4-3 shootout win.
“I would say, first and foremost, it’s the Union’s biggest win in their history,” said head coach Jim Curtin. “I thought the fan support was incredible. I thought that our players showed a ton of heart – the heart of a lion. I couldn’t be more proud. They represented the badge very well. They represented our fans, our city, and they left everything on the field.”
The Union move on to host the winner of Orlando City SC and the Chicago Fire in the final four which is scheduled to take place Tuesday, Aug. 11 at 7:30 p.m. ET at PPL Park. The Fire host Orlando on Wednesday night at 8:30 p.m. ET.
At the opening kickoff the temperatures were in the 90s and the play on the field got off to a blazing start. The Union pushed forward and earned themselves a corner kick within the first 45 seconds of the match. After a short burst of energy by the Union, the Red Bulls held possession for the large portion of the half.
Fernando Aristeguieta scores the winning penalty kick for the Philadelphia Union against the New York Red Bulls in the 2015 Quarterfinals. Photo: Bob Larson
In the 40th minute, the game took a major turn when Union forward Conor Casey shown a straight red card for an aggressive challenge on Conor Lade. There was little argument from the veteran as he quietly marched off the field leaving his team short a man.
The Red Bulls had several oppertuinites in the following five minutes after the red card, but nothing came of it. Multiple times, New York would gain the penalty area, they would misfire or McCarthy would come off his line to put an end to the play.
The second half got off to a fast start as well, with the Red Bulls getting a handful of solid attempts on net. The pattern continued from the first half where the ball remained in the Union’s defensive third, and every few minutes there would be a counter attack.
“There’s not a moment when you can relax,” said McCarthy who has started every game for the Union in the tournament. “You’re always on your toes because you know the pressure’s coming nonstop.”
As the second half progressed, the Union started to get their footing, and started denying the Red Bulls from shooting on nearly every possession.
The Union got the ultimate gratification for their resurgence with a well deserved goal in the 55th minute by Eric Ayuk.
After the goal, the Red Bulls were clearly deflated, letting off a lot of the pressure they applied in the opening 10 minutes of the half. The Union continued to control the game as it progressed, and with only one minute left of stoppage time, it seemed certain that the Union were moving on to the Semifinals. But the Red Bulls kept fighting as Lloyd Sam tied the game in the fourth minute of stoppage time, connecting on a ball after a series of headers in the penalty area. The shorthanded Union and the hometown Red Bulls, both who had used all of their substitutions, were headed to extra time.
Stoppage time was dominated by the Red Bulls as they pushed the ball forward throughout the first 15 minutes, but nothing came out of it. Union were on their heels throughout but McCarthy kept the Union in the game as he finished the game with nine saves. The second half of extra time provided more drama as the Union had more possession, but the Red Bulls still had the majority of the ball at their feet with the extra man.
The Red Bulls nearly stole the game at the end as Bradley Wright-Phillips headed in what most of the fans in attendance thought was the game-winner in the 120th minute, but the referee’s assistant ruled him offside. That was the last real chance of extra time for either side, so the ultimate decider, penalty kicks, came into play.
Wright-Phillips missed the opening attempt of the shootout off the crossbar and after everyone converted their attempts the Union were up 3-2 going into Round 4. The Red Bulls’ regulation hero Lloyd Sam had his shot saved in spectacular fashion by McCarthy, diving to his left and pulling the ball off the line. New York’s Luis Robles saved an attempt by Fred which meant it was coming down to the final round. Sasha Kljestan scored for the home team, but it was Fernando Aristeguieta who sent the Union into the final four, much to the delight of their traveling fans in the upper deck.
After the game, there was a very dampened mood in the New York locker room and Robles summed it up.
“What feels different, is that walking into this locker room today, we all expected to win,” said the goalkeeper who made two saves. “The hardest part is dealing with the result when you believed you would win.”
The confident Red Bulls will have to wait until next year to get another shot at their first Open Cup title. While the victorious Philadelphia will advance to play in their third Semifinal in the last four years as they continue their quest to bring the Open Cup trophy back to Pennsylvania for the first time since 1966.
POST-GAME: JIM CURTIN
POST-GAME: FERNANDO ARISTEGUIETA
POST-GAME: JOHN MCCARTHY
POST-GAME: RAY GADDIS
FULL MATCH REPLAY: PHILADELPHIA UNION AT NY RED BULLS