Philadelphia Union celebrate a goal against the Richmond Kickers in the 2018 US Open Cup. Photo: Greg Carroccio – Philadelphia Union
The Philadelphia Union are used to crazy Lamar Hunt US Open Cup matches. The only crazy aspect of Tuesday’s Fourth Round victory against the Richmond Kickers ended up being the 5-0 scoreline.
The Union are one of the few teams in MLS who have never lost their opening round game. It was their seventh straight opening round win, dating back to their US Open Cup debut in 2012. It also extended their tournament unbeaten streak to 11 games (6-0-5, 2-3 PKs), the second-longest in the Modern Era (1995-present) of the competition. (Penalty kicks are officially listed as draws)
In the midst of a busy stretch of games, the Union blended a group of young players with regular starters. One of those regulars, Haris Medunjanin, sparked the scoring in the 4th minute. His corner kick found the feet of defender Jack Elliott, who easily snuck the ball past Richmond goalkeeper Trevor Spangenberg to give the Union a 1-0 lead.
Philadelphia coach Jim Curtin said, “Getting the goal early in these kinds of games settles things down.”
The Union did indeed settle into a rhythm and dominated possession in the early stages. However, Spangenberg seemed determined to keep his team in the game, making several point-blank saves to keep his MLS opponents from going up by two goals.
Despite Spangenberg’s heroics, the USL side could only hold out until the 27th minute. Union forward Cory Burke got in behind the Richmond defense and was taken down by Spangenberg in the penalty box. His teammate David Accam scored his first-ever Union goal by converting the penalty kick. For Accam, it was his sixth career US Open Cup goal. His previous five all came in the 2016 tournament for the Chicago Fire when he was tied for the tournament lead in goals with La Maquina FC’s Edwin Borboa.
The home side was not done there, scoring twice more at the end of the first half to put the game out of reach. First, Union homegrown player Anthony Fontana stole the ball at the top of the Richmond box and fired it home for a 3-0 lead.
Marcus Epps of the Philadelphia Union battles for the ball with the Richmond Kickers in the 2018 US Open Cup. Photo: Greg Carroccio – Philadelphia Union
Then, as first half stoppage time was winding down, Burke made a beautiful flick pass from near midfield to Marcus Epps. The Union midfielder blazed past Richmond’s defense and struck the ball past Spangenberg to put his team up 4-0.
At halftime, the Union subbed Jay Simpson in for Burke, and he made an immediate impact. Three minutes into the half, Derrick Jones entered the Richmond penalty area from the right, faked out one defender, then played it on the ground to Simpson. The Englishman made no mistake and scored an easy goal — his first since March 2017.
From there, Philadelphia took its foot off the gas and calmly saw out the match. Union keeper John McCarthy was finally called into action in the 88th minute, when Richmond hit the post, then fired another shot that he was able to save — the only save he was required to make all game.
“I’m very happy with the professionalism of the group, even with young face on the field,” Curtin said. “Credit to our players–there were a bunch of homegrown players out there. It’s a special night to reflect back on.”
The five goals scored by the Union ties a club record set back in the 2012 Quarterfinals when they beat the Harrisburg City Islanders (now Penn FC), 5-2. The victory was also the team’s first against the Kickers, who they were playing for the first time.
Philadelphia now advance to the Round of 16 of the Open Cup. They will find out their opponent on Thursday, June 7 at 11 a.m. ET.