After being eliminated two years in a row in the US Open Cup by one of their rivals, the New York Red Bulls were finally able to move past the Philadelphia Union. For the second time in three years 120 minutes would not be enough to decide the winner on Wednesday in a 5-3 penalty kick win following a 1-1 draw.
Red Bulls keeper Ryan Meara came up big during the Union’s third penalty kick when he saved Fafa Picault’s kick. After New York’s Sacha Kljestan and Philly’s Marcus Epps each scored, Felipe was the fifth and final penalty kicker for the Red Bulls and he did not disappoint, putting his shot past John McCarthy, to book the Red Bulls’ spot in the Quarterfinals as New York will head to rival New England Revolution.
The first 45 minutes of the game was all about Red Bulls. The team completely dominated the Union, constantly making their defense work. McCarthy came up big in the ninth minute when he was able to save Sean Davis’ shot in front of goal. The Union’s best chance at scoring in the first half came in the 18th minute when Picault went 1-on-1 with Meara after getting past the Red Bulls defense. Meara came up big saving Picault’s shot and the rebound header that came after. The deadlock was finally broken in the 42nd minute when Kljestan was able to beat McCarthy in the box after receiving a pass from Bradley Wright-Philips.
During the second half Philadelphia was a different team, pressing forward during the entire half. The Union came close to tying the game in the 74th when CJ Sapong’s shot hit the post. Pressing paid off in the 86th minute when Roland Alberg’s shot went past Meara to tie the game. The final minutes of the half were some of the most intense as both teams looked to go ahead and avoid having to go into extra time. However, neither team was able to capitalize on opportunities.
The Union continued to press during the first 15 minutes of extra time. They were the more dangerous team and looked more likely to score. The Red Bulls were visibly more tired, with many players cramping up around the field. In the second half of extra time it looked like the Union were once again going to eliminate their New York rivals. Chris Pontius forced Meara to make a beautiful save in the 103rd minute. Three minutes later Picault’s shot hit the post and just minutes later he scored a goal that was called back for offside. Just like in 2015 the Red Bulls and the Union would have to decide the game in a penalty shootout.
When asked if it was going to be deja vu all over again once he saw how Philly was playing, Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch said that he “wasn’t too focused on that, I was just trying to help the guys understand how to play in the formation and how to now continue to get an edge in the game.”
— New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls) June 29, 2017
Meara, who is the backup goalkeeper for Luis Robles, said that the length of the game didn’t bother him.
“Once the game gets going you’re in the moment you’re in the zone. For me, as a goalie, I never mind going to penalties, all the pressure is on the shooter, if you can make a save or two you’re the man.”
A small silver lining for the record book is that since matches that are decided by penalty kicks are officially listed as a draw, the Union kept their lengthy US Open Cup unbeaten streak alive. With last night’s draw, the Union are now unbeaten in their last 10 matches, which is the second-longest streak in the Modern Era (Record is 22 games by Seattle Sounders).
The Red Bulls will look to continue their Open Cup run to put some poor form in recent years behind them. By eliminating the Union, the Red Bulls have now won back-to-back games in the tournament for just the second time in the last 14 years. The last time they won more than two games in a single tournament was when they finished as the runner-up in the 2003 US Open Cup.