The US Open Cup magic finally ran out for the Harrisburg City Islanders against their MLS affiliates, the Philadelphia Union. The Union got three early goals and weathered a fierce Harrisburg comeback to eventually win 5-2.
“That was a tough game, a lot tougher than a 5-2 result,” Union interim coach John Hackworth said. “It’s a big deal for this club and this organization .” Just a few weeks ago, the two teams played a friendly in which Harrisburg prevailed 3-2 and was followed by the firing of manager Peter Nowak. Tonight, however, the Union attacked early and often to make sure that result would not be repeated.
Philadelphia looked to dominate the game from the opening whistle. Harrisburg had barely managed a touch when the Union’s Lionard Pajoy sent in a cross that was handled in the box when Harrisburg defender Stephen Basso slipped. Freddy Adu converted a 5th-minute penalty to give the Union the early lead.
Just five minutes later, the Union struck again. A long ball from the Union half of the field was misplayed by the Harrisburg defense. Jack McInerney pounced on the loose ball and slotted it past goalkeeper Nick Noble to double the Philadelphia lead in the ninth minute.
Philadelphia was not done, however. After the game had seemingly settled down to a more normal pace, Gabe Farfan made a run down the left wing and crossed the ball into the box. The pass found Pajoy, who calmly gathered the ball, manuevered through the defense and scored to give the Union a 3-0 lead in the 29th minute.
Harrisburg would not give up though, being no strangers to 3-goal deficits in Open Cup play. In the Third Round, the City Islanders were down 3-0 in the second half of overtime against the New England Revolution. They scored three times in eight minutes to tie the game, and they eventually advanced in a penalty kick shootout.
The City Islanders nearly replicated that feat on Tuesday night. Yann Ekra found Brian Ombiji in the box in the 51st minute. Ombiji powered his way past the Union defense and scored. Three minutes later, Ekra dished out another assist. This time, he found Morgan Langley open in the box. Langley converted the goal to make it 3-2.
“We came into the locker room up 3-0, and the first thing said was ‘They were down 3-0 to New England with way less time,’” McInerney said. “We stuck to it. We kept grinding it out…We started to put back on, and they couldn’t handle it.”
The Union managed to calm things down and reasserted its presence on the game. Philadelphia substitute Antoine Hoppenot provided an instant spark, running in behind the defense and earning a penalty kick in the 69th minute. Pajoy converted the spot kick to put the Union up 4-2.
Harrisburg pushed everyone forward to try and make yet another comeback, but Gabriel Gomez put the game away with an 81st-minute goal. On a counterattack, a pass was deflected right into the path of Gomez. He gathered the ball and chipped the onrushing goalie to make it 5-2.
Harrisburg’s magical run in the 2012 US Open Cup that included two upsets of MLS sides has ended, but Philadelphia’s is still going strong. The Union will host Sporting Kansas City in the Semifinals on July 11 at PPL Park.
The Union also become the first Pennsylvania club to reach the final four since the United German Hungarians, located just north of the city of Philadelphia, pulled it off in 1993.
Philadelphia Union 5:2 Harrisburg City Islanders
PPL Park – Chester, Pa.
PHI: Freddy Adu (PK) 5
PHI: Jack MacInerney (unassisted) 9
PHI: Lionard Pajoy (Gabe Farfan) 29
HCI: Brian Ombiji (Yann Ekra) 51
HCI: Morgan Langley (Yann Ekra) 54
PHI: Lionard Pajoy (PK) 69
PHI: Gabriel Gomez (unassisted) 81
HCI: Andrew Marshall (caution-60)
HCI: Morgan Langley (caution-74)
HCI: Jason Pelletier (caution-78)
PHI: Jack McInerney (caution-90+)
Philadelphia Union: Zac Macmath; Raymon Gaddis, Amobi Okugo, Porfirio Lopez, Gabriel Farfan; Brian Carroll, Michael Lahoud (Gabriel Gomez-69), Michael Farfan; Freddy Adu (Antoine Hoppenot-61), Jack McInerny, Lionard Pajoy (Jimmy McLaughlin-83)
Harrisburg City Islanders: Nick Noble; Stephen Basso (Tom Brandt-8), Dustin Bixler, Andrew Marshall, Bilal Duckett (Colin Zizzi-32); Jason Pelletier, J.T. Noone, Andrew Welker, Morgan Langley; Brian Ombiji, Yann Ekra (Garett Pettis-69)