Philadelphia Union Fall in U.S. Open Cup Final
CHESTER, Pa. — If you didn’t think the Union were a Philadelphia sports team before, now you have empirical proof.
The Union missed two great chances to win the U.S. Open Cup final late in regulation before Clint Dempsey scored for the Seattle Sounders in the first 15 minutes of extra time. The Union eventually lost, 3-1, after leading 1-0 at halftime in front of a spirited PPL Park crowd of 15,256.
The loss also cost the Union $190,000, as the winner took home $250,000 — and the loser just $60,000.
With the scored tied at 1 late in regulation, the Union had two great scoring chances. Pedro Ribeiro nearly scored in the 88th minute. A Raymon Gaddis shot deflected to Ribeiro, who fired at the open net — but Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei recovered just in time to save it. The Union’s Vincent Nogueira hit the post in the first minute of stoppage time.
“I’ve never been proud of anything in my life that ended in a loss before,” Union interim manager Jim Curtin said. “This is the first time.” Despite the loss in the final, the Union’s run to the U.S. Open Cup under Curtin was quite remarkable. In Curtin’s first game as interim manager, the Union needed an 89th-minute goal from Edu to stave off defeat against the team’s own minor league affiliate, the Harrisburg City Islanders. The Union eventually beat the City Islanders in extra time, before beating the New York Cosmos in extra time, the New England Revolution in regulation and FC Dallas in a penalty shootout to reach the final.
The U.S. Open Cup is a 100-year-old soccer tournament that essentially any organized soccer team in the country can enter. It runs concurrently with the MLS season, and is considered another trophy a team can win in a season. Yes, soccer is kind of weird — but the cup format also gives fans an extra chance to see their team win a title each season. How European of the sport. And Union fans were stoked: PPL Park was perhaps the loudest it has ever been on Tuesday night. With — I’m sure — apologies to George Clinton, the Sons of Ben sang “We want the Cup/We gotta have that Cup” for an incredibly long time.
Carlos Valdes had the best chance for the Union in the extra time, but his header went right to Frei. In the 114th minute, Obafemi Martins scored to clinch the victory for the Sounders. It is their fourth U.S. Open Cup title in just six seasons in MLS.
Maurice Edu put the Union ahead in the 38th minute, heading in a gorgeous cross on a free kick from Cristian Maidana. Just three minutes after halftime, however, Chad Barrett headed home a failed clearance from the Union to tie the score at 1.
So what’s next for the Union? Unfortunately for Curtin, the interim boss, the team appears to be moving on. “And so the countdown to the Rene Meulensteen era likely begins now,” Philly.com soccer writer Jonathan Tannenwald tweeted postgame. Muelensteen is the former manager of Fulham FC, an English club, and is reportedly on the shortlist for the job.
“Jim Curtin’s done a great job here with Philly Union,” Sigi Schmid said postgame. “I don’t know if I’m his agent, but he deserves a shot at this thing.” For the record, Schmid is not Jim Curtin’s agent. He’s the manager of the Seattle Sounders. MLSsoccer.com Union writer Dave Zeitlin agrees with Schmid: “He still deserves the interim tag taken off his title.”
The Union return to MLS play against Houston on Saturday at PPL Park. The team is currently in sixth in the Eastern Conference, and out of the playoffs only on a goal-differential tiebreaker.
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