Andrew Wenger must have thought that he would be having nightmares about Brian Sylvestre. That is, until he finally found the back of the net twice in overtime to lead his Philadelphia Union to victory over the Harrisburg City Islanders in the Fourth Round of the 2014 US Open Cup.
Sylvestre nearly single-handedly won the match for the third-division City Islanders, making 10 saves, but Maurice Edu canceled out a 39th-minute Harrisburg goal in the 89th minute, and Wenger added two more in extra time for a 3-1 win in Chester, Pa.
“He was very good. He’s a big boy, he made some saves,” said new Union interim manager Jim Curtain, who was making his head coaching debut, about Sylvestre. “He was pretty quick to get to some things tonight that were special. He had a great game.”
While Sylvestre had a great game, his opponents had their share of struggles. Disjointed passing and sluggish play meant the Union showed very little going forward. Philadelphia dominated possession, and the ball was more often than not in the Harrisburg half, but the Union rarely troubled the away side’s goal in the first half.
The City Islanders, on the other hand, made the most of their chances. In the 39th minute, Danny Diprima whipped in a corner that was headed to and saved by Union keeper Andre Blake. Jason Pelletier was first to the rebound, shooting it in to give his side a 1-0 lead.
Despite playing all three of its Designated Players, the Union still could not muster much in the first half.
“If you look at the first half, the passing was sloppy, sluggish,” Curtain said. “We’ve had a long layoff. If we were a little cleaner on three plays in the first half, we could have scored the first goal. They got behind the ball and they were a handful to break down.”
The second half was appearing to be much of the same until Union substitute Sebastian Le Toux inserted new life and energy into the game. The Union began to create serious chances, but that is when Sylvestre was in his element. Several saves later, and Harrisburg looked like it was going to spring its sixth upset of an MLS team since 2007. But Le Toux crossed in a ball in the 89th minute that found Edu right in front of goal, where he powered it in from eight yards out.
Sylvestre’s most remarkable saves came right after the goal, forcing extra time. After a Le Toux corner, the netminder stopped a Leo Fernandes shot, ran to the other side of the net and kept out what looked to be a game-winner by Wenger.
Harrisburg’s tired legs finally caught up to the squad in overtime. The Union dominated the extra periods, and Wenger finally got the goal he was looking for in the 110th minute. He received the ball in the center of the box from Le Toux, and his shot deflected of Islander defender Matt Bahner and into the net. Seven minutes later, Wenger made a solo run, blowing by the tired defense, rocketing in a shot off the bottom of the crossbar and giving his team a 3-1 lead.
“Andrew came in and did a great job and got the two goals that won it in the end. He struggled a bit in the beginning, but he stuck with it,” Curtain said. “These games are always fights. I’d like to give credit to Harrisburg who was really undermanned tonight. They put us on the ropes to be honest. Bill Becher did a great job preparing these guys.”
With the victory, the Union advance to the Fifth Round of the US Open Cup on at 7 p.m. June 24. They will host the NASL’s New York Cosmos, who upset the New York Red Bulls 3-0.
REPLAY: HARRISBURG CITY ISLANDERS AT PHILADELPHIA UNION
POST-GAME INTERVIEW: JIM CURTIN (via @PhillySoccerPg)
POST-GAME INTERVIEWS: PHILADELPHIA UNION (via @PhillySoccerPg)
Philadelphia Union vs. Harrisburg City Islanders
PPL Park – Chester, PA
HCI: Jason Pelletier (Danny Diprima) 39’
PU: Maurice Edu (Sebastian Le Toux) 89’
PU: Andrew Wenger (Le Toux) 110’
PU: Andrew Wenger (unassisted) 117’
PU: Andre Blake; Raymon Gaddis, Maurice Edu, Sheanon Williams, Fabinho; Brian Carroll (Leo Fernandes-69’), Michael Lahoud, Vincent Nogueira (Antoine Hoppenot-81’); Cristian Maidana, Danny Cruz (Sebastian Le Toux-57’), Andrew Wenger
HCI: Brian Sylvestre; Raphael Cox, Matt Bahner, Coady Andrews, Colin Zizzi; Jason Pelletier, Yann Ekra (Edinho-87’), Danny DiPrima, Jose Barill (Luan Silva-71’); Morgan Langley, Garret Pettis (Jamiel Hardware-75’)
HCI: Morgan Langley (caution – 32’)
PU: Raymon Gaddis (caution – 78’)
HCI: Edinho (caution – 94’)
PU: Maurice Edu (caution – 108’)
PU: Antoine Hoppenot (caution – 112’)