Energetic Union fall short in Open Cup semis
CHESTER, Pa. -- The Union used up every last drop of energy on Wednesday, but it wasn’t enough to keep their US Open Cup run alive.
With the a second-half goal by Jacob Peterson, Sporting Kansas City defeated the Union, 2-0, at PPL Park.
“I feel like the guys put everything out there,” said Union striker Antoine Hoppenot. “This one hurts. Everyone wanted to make it to the finals. We did everything we could.”
Union captain Carlos Valdes was also hit hard by the result.
“The most important thing was to win this game and get to the finals. We wanted to make history for the Philadelphia Union.” said Valdes. “I feel so bad because I really wanted to play in the US Open Cup final.”
Sporting KC advances to to the Open Cup title game, where they will play the host -- either Chivas USA or the Seattle Sounders -- at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park.
“First, I should say congratulations to Sporting KC, they are in the final and that’s fantastic for them,” said coach John Hackworth. “They did what they had to do to get the result.”
The opening half was one of trial and error for the energetic Union, who controlled play but couldn’t break the Sporting KC back line. After scoring four goals against KC the last time the two teams played in MLS action on June 23, it makes sense that the visitors would come in defensively refocused.
“KC played a completely different type of game today,” said Hackworth. “Credit to them. We didn’t take our chances, we possessed the ball an awful lot but didn’t create the opportunities. We missed the final pass a lot, we didn’t get the final chance we needed. We had them on the ropes for a good stretch in the first half.”
Despite registering just one shot and none on goal, the Union’s best chance came in the 31st minute, when a Michael Farfan free kick gained the box and was directed off the head of Jack McInerney. The confident header sailed just over the crossbar to keep the contest scoreless at half.
Freddy Adu and Lionard Pajoy were also active but kept off the board.
Unable to break KC in the second half, the Union began to fall back on their heels. With the offense unable to earn the possession it had in the first half, KC began to press and the momentum turned, making it a matter of time before the scoreless tie was broken.
In the 65th minute, on a long free kick in Union territory, Graham Zusi launched a pass into the box that produced a lofty header from Peterson that slipped through Zac MacMath and in the upper right of the Union goal, making it 1-0.
“It was a good ball in by Zusi,” said MacMath, who didn’t go into details about the goal. “The guy got a good flick on it, near post.
“I just didn’t get there in time, unfortunately.”
Hackworth said it appeared like a mistake by MacMath, who got a hand on the ball but didn’t fully commit to the save.
“He was pretty upset,” said the coach. “I’m sure he felt like it could have gotten and from the side it looked like it was going wide. We have to learn from our experiences. Zac has been fantastic for us all year and he’s a young goalkeeper who will learn from it.”
Sporting KC kept the attacking going in the 67th minute, when C.J. Sapong was found in alone on the Union goal. Trying to curl a shot within the left post, Sapong plunked his dribbler off the post to keep the Union alive.
However, the Union didn’t go away. Playing the Hoppenot card in the 64th minute in a move for Pajoy, coach John Hackworth was begging for the rookie’s offensive heroics. That plan almost came to fruition in the 69th minute, when Adu played a lead pass into the box. There, Hoppenot slid through defenders and fired a shot that deflected off Jimmy Nielsen and stayed out.
“I’d have to see it again, I just hit it badly,” said Hoppenot, who clearly felt the loss. “I should have put that in the back of the net, the guys expect me to put it in the back of the net. That’s why coach Hackworth has confidence in me. I should have put it in the back of the net, that was rough.”
With the Union applying everything they could muster, including MacMath at midfield, Zusi added the equivalent of an empty-net goal in stoppage time to give KC the 2-0 lead and win.
“I think we made a couple mistakes,” said Union captain Carlos Valdes. “For some moments of the game we looked confused and we couldn’t connect a lot of passes. When you play like that in these kind of games, you’ll pay for mistakes.”E-mail Ryan Bright at email@example.com