As Sunday's match vs. Toronto FC hit full time, many of the PPL Park cheers that typically follow a Union victory were replaced by one specific request: We Want The Cup.
What started out as a bright spot amidst disappointing early season results—the Union were 2-7-2 when they notched their first ever Open Cup win with a 3-0 victory over the Rochester Rhinos—has garnered even more excitement now that the Union have put together a string of successful MLS games.
Tonight, Philadelphia will try to get one step closer to hoisting the coveted cup when they take on Sporting Kansas City at PPL Park (7:30 p.m., philadelphiaunion.com).
“This game is incredibly huge for us, said manager John Hackworth. "I know I’ve said that for the last month, but for us to be in a position where we can play in a final in our third year in existence, to have the right to earn some hardware and maybe put a banner in this building—all of those things are really important to the club. For our club, we honor the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and understand that it’s a massive privilege to be in the semifinals and we’re not satisfied with that. We want to make it to the final; we want to win the whole thing.”
Enthusiasm for Philadelphia's Cup push continues to grow amongst Union supporters. Prior to Sunday's game, 6abc's Action News team (pictured above) showed off their new "We Want The Cup" t-shirts. Sons of Ben member Mark Jenkinson designed the shirts, which will be available in the Union Shop at PPL Park tonight.
To even play for the U.S. Open Cup championship, however, the Union will first have to get through Sporting Kansas City, who sit atop the Eastern Conference table and are hungry for revenge after losing to the Union 4-0 at PPL Park in late June.
“Knowing now that they’re coming back here, they’re going to be super motivated and we’ll have to deal with that,' said Hackworth. "They also won the right to host the final, which from their ownership and their front office that’s a huge, huge commitment. I’m sure that message has been passed along to their players and coaching staff.
"But guess what—they have to come play at PPL Park [tonight]. That to me gives us a huge advantage because we feel a different energy in this stadium, and it’s something that as a staff and team we take great pride in. So we have to deal a lot with them and that motivational factor and what they want to do, but at the same time we know that we’re ready for this and we’re pretty motivated ourselves.”
One thing is certain: the Union will hear plenty of Open Cup support coming from the stands tonight. Against a tough Sporting Kansas City side, the club hopes they’ll keep this tournament run alive and allow We Want The Cup chants to live on.
“That was great," Hackworth said, regarding Sunday's crowd chant. "It was pretty cool... We want the cup. We’ve been talking about it a lot internally…it’s been on our minds a long time. To have the fans chant that at the end of the game was pretty cool. It was really special."