After falling in Open Cup Final at PPL Park a year ago, Union back home to start anew

Open Cup vs. Harrisburg

Rochester Rhinos (8-0-4 USL) at Philadelphia Union (4-9-3, MLS)

What: Fourth Round of the 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup; When: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: PPL Park, Chester, Pa. Tickets:here

Online:; TV: None Radio: None;

Social: Follow the action via Twitter: @TheUMatchday

Parking: Free at all PPL lots; Mass Transit: Shuttle service to and from Chester Transportation Center

Tuesday will be the start of a new season, of sorts, for the Philadelphia Union. One that includes especially bitter memories as just nine months ago the Union were mere inches away from claiming their first championship in franchise history.
But it’s a tournament that also brings back fond memories, one that the Union can look at as a catalyst for a season, just as it was less than a year ago. After all, head coach Jim Curtin immediately turned around the team’s fortunes last year at this time, thanks in large part to a deep run in the U.S. Open Cup that included memorable come-from-behind victories and a semifinal game decided in penalties.
And Curtin – a two-time Open Cup winner in his playing days – faces a similar challenge right now, including a congested schedule. But he’s stressing just how important this competition is for his team as they’re about to start a 15-day whirlwind that will include at least four games, five if the Union win on Tuesday.
“I’m a guy who I guess it’s ingrained in me from my time in Chicago that there are only two trophies you can win and this is one of them,” he said. “We’re going to take it serious.  You see a lot of teams that will throw out – we’ll call them second teams – I don’t think there are any MLS teams that are deep enough to field two teams yet. So we’re going to field a strong team.”
That’s similar sentiment from last season when Curtin seemed to find the right combination of players that led to a summer surge for the Union. That included an Open Cup run that saw his team reach the final against Seattle at PPL Park.
Of course, a late attempt from
Vincent Nogueira
clanked off the woodwork and the Union were sent to extra time against Seattle for the U.S. Open Cup Championship. A half hour later, two goals from Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins, and the Union were left to watch another team celebrate on their field. That, undoubtedly, fuels this team right now.
“You brought up the term unfinished business – we went deep in this thing – as deep as you could go and as close as we could get to lifting the trophy,” Curtin said. “When that game finished on our home field, I made sure the guys stayed out there the entire time and took it all in when Seattle got their medals. Because it was the right thing to do out of respect for the champion, but also because that’s what should drive you in pro sports – that  feeling of coming so close and not getting there and feeling so sick to your stomach – it should motivate you and push you on to bigger and brighter things.”
Come Tuesday, we’ll see just how motivated the Union are from last year. After all, while a deep run in this tournament could last up to three months, conversely a loss ends all of it tomorrow.
And the Union are more than familiar with some of the smaller clubs causing troubles. Last year, the Union needed a late goal just to force extra time with Harrisburg before triumphing 3-1. A week later, they again needed to come from behind against New York Cosmos, a game they also won in extra time.
“I’ve been warning them as much as possible all week – the early round games are in a lot of ways the toughest because if you run into a Cosmos, or Rochester, this is a chance for them to knock off one of the [MLS teams],” Curtin said. “Last year you saw it with Harrisburg and the Cosmos – those were our two toughest games – because they are still good teams, they both can play, the guys get paid to play, so they are professionals, as well.
“It’s challenging to get our guys to be ready for it,” Curtin continued. “You see it so often, though, these games become tricky, and MLS teams are going to lose in this round. That’s a fact. Someone is going to go down, it happens every year, and you have to do your best to prevent it.”
That certainly will be easier said than done, as an undefeated Rochester team will hardly be a pushover. They’re undefeated in 12 USL games this year, thanks to only allowing an astonishing four goals. But they had their fair share of problems with a smaller division team as they needed three goals in the final 12 minutes to defeat Reading United in the Third Round.
“They have a big back four,” Curtin said. “It’s not just going to be a game where we are dumping balls into the box and expecting us to get on the end of head balls – it’s going to take getting to the end line, balls cut back on the ground, the timing of our runs, the things that we did not do against NYCFC, to be honest… They are a well-coached, organized team, so it’s going to take something to break them down and it’s only happened four times this year – it’s an impressive number.”
What lineup Curtin will trot out against Rochester is somewhat of an unknown, but Curtin did announce former Rhinos keeper
John McCarthy
will make the start in goal. Last year, McCarthy shined for Rochester and was named USL’s Goalkeeper and Rookie of the Year.
“It’s just something that you look forward to and want to take advantage of and it doesn’t matter what team it will be [against],” McCarthy said regarding going up against his former team. “Now it’s the Open Cup and it’s a tournament that would be something nice to win and this is the first step for it.”
McCarthy made his MLS debut earlier this season in a 2-1 win over NYCFC and has made five starts this year, but has recently been sidelined with a concussion. After getting 90 minutes against Reading in a friendly last week, this will be McCarthy’s first real game action since May 2.
“I look at it like it’s another opportunity to get a game,” he said. “You always want to win every game you play, and just to be in the Open Cup it has a little more to it because it’s the longest running tournament in America so there’s a lot of meaning to people in the soccer world, so if you’re one of those people that has an opportunity to win a trophy and especially in the U.S. Open Cup – there’s definitely meaning to it.”
What do you think is a gameplan for success against Rochester? Leave your comment below.

Contact Union press officer Chris Winkler at

On Sale Now!

On Sale Now!

Every match matters! In 2024, you do not want to miss your favorite matchups as the Union take on the best MLS has to offer! When we score, make sure you are there to get Subaru Park shaking!

Stay in the Know
Stay in the Know


The Boys in Blue, delivered to your inbox. Tickets, deals, giveaways, and more.