John McCarthy of the Philadelphia Union made 9 saves against the New York Red Bulls, including the deciding PK in the shootout. Photo: Bob Larson | Stellar Performance Photography | FULL GALLERY
It began in the third minute when he sprang to left to tip Felipe’s curling shot around the top corner. It ended over 120 minutes later with a low lunge that barely prevented Lloyd Sam’s penalty from crossing the goal line.
And when it was over, the Philadelphia Union had won the shootout 4-3 (after a 1-1 draw) and John McCarthy had produced one of the best goalkeeping performances of 2015, earning him Player of the Round honors from TheCup.us.
McCarthy ran away with the voting for this round, with Kennedy Igboananike of the Chicago Fire finishing in second, and Real Salt Lake’s Aaron Maund also getting strong consideration in the vote among TheCup.us staff and a select panel from the North American Soccer Reporters.
After watching McCarthy make nine saves during the match, and another during the penalty shootout, Union coach Jim Curtin spotlighted his goalie’s contributions in what he called the biggest win in franchise history.
“That one was a different level,” the Union coach said. “I don’t like shootouts, but someone’s got to win and someone’s got to lose. He stepped up and bailed us out on a night that we weren’t great.”
John McCarthy of the Philadelphia Union stops a run by the Red Bulls’ Bradley Wright-Phillips. Photo: Bob Larson | Stellar Performance Photography | FULL GALLERY
Not only were the Union far less than great, they were playing a man down on the road for 80 minutes after Conor Casey was sent off for stamping on Connor Lade’s calf. But every time New York broke through Philadelphia’s defense, McCarthy closed the door.
After the early stop of Felipe, there was the 24th minute charge that disrupted Anatole Abang’s solo run at goal. After Casey’s ejection, McCarthy faced an endless stream of crosses as New York sought to equalize, some 74 crosses by the end of extra time. The only time McCarthy was beaten was when Sam connected on a perfect headed pass right in front of goal deep into second half stoppage time to force extra time.
When asked about Sam’s equalizer, McCarthy simply said, “I just thought, ‘that kind of sucked. There was 30 seconds left in the game.’”
In extra time, McCarthy used every tool at his disposal to keep the scoreline level. He sprinted out to force Bradley Wright-Phillips wide of the net in the 101st minute, smothered Manolo Sanchez’s toe poke three minutes later, and kicked out Mike Grella’s 12-yard effort in the dying moments of the match.
Then, when so much had already been asked of him, McCarthy delivered a spectacular save on Lloyd Sam in the shootout. He dove to his left and got a piece of the shot, but it got past him for a moment, forcing him to reach back and stop it inches away from crossing the line. to set up Fernando Aristeguieta’s winner.
JOHN MCCARTHY’S DECIDING PK SAVE ON LLOYD SAM
After the match, McCarthy was asked about his mentality when facing penalties: “Uhh,” he deadpanned, “Try to save ‘em.”
The Union asked McCarthy to save their cup run in the US Open Cup quarterfinals. And, time after time, he did.
McCarthy, a Philadelphia native, becomes the second goalkeeper of the 102nd edition of the US Open Cup to be named the Player of the Round, following Gregory Hartley of Chattanooga FC in Round 1 of the tournament. He is also only the second Union player to be named Player of the Round, the first being fellow goalkeeper Zac MacMath following his penalty kick heroics in last year’s semifinal road win over FC Dallas.
Adam Cann played soccer for Haverford College and now writes about Philadelphia Union for the Philly Soccer Page. Follow him on Twitter @PSPadam. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.