Leagues Cup

Union advance in Leagues Cup with penalty kick win over D.C. United


Philadelphia Union was calm under pressure as it battled back for a penalty kick shootout win against rivals D.C. United to advance to the Leagues Cup Round of 16.

After battling to a scoreless draw in regulation, the Boys in Blue had their backs against the wall after seeing their first penalty kick saved by their Eastern Conference rival. Momentum swung back into the Union’s favor after a miss in the fourth round saw the shootout tied up with a confident conversion from homegrown Jack McGlynn. The two sides went to the sixth round where the Union grabbed the victory as Olivier Mbaizo sent Subaru Park into a frenzy after D.C. United saw their effort crash off the post.

With the win, the Boys in Blue will host another rivalry showdown in the Round of 16 as New York Red Bulls come to Chester, Pa., on Monday, August 7th. Tickets for the match are on sale right now so don't miss out as the Boys in Blue look to advance to the Quarterfinals of the first-ever Leagues Cup.

How It Went Down

With the rain coming down on a cool evening at Subaru Park it took only four minutes for the Union to spring the first attack. Center back Jack Elliott headed forward a pass to Jose Martinez to start the offensive chance. The Venezuelan turned to a creative touch to maintain possession and quickly saw the high defensive line by the visitors. A quick pass over the top sent Mikael Uhre in on goal but unable to bag the opener as D.C. United goalkeeper Alex Bono made the point blank save.

As the short rain shower came to an end, D.C. tested three-time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Andre Blake for the first time. With passes side to side in search of a pass inside to their prime offensive weapon, Benteke played the role of decoy as Jackson Hopkins slipped underneath and ripped a shot from outside the box that Blake pushed away.

The Leagues Cup clash showcased its rivalry feel in the first half certainly with Julian Carranza and Donovan Pines tangled up in the box that provided a moment for the Union faithful to show their feelings on the encounter.

The Union took the energy from the crowd and put on some creative half chances with Martinez a nuisance in the middle of the park to deny a counter-attack chance intended for Benteke. The interception saw the Union again pushed forward with a beautiful chipped pass from Daniel Gazdag to the left flank for Wagner to race onto. With numbers in the box, the curler forced a difficult clearance from the visitors that somehow didn’t fall to the Union on the second ball.

With the visitors content to concede possession and maintain a tight five-man defensive line with another three in front of them, the Boys in Blue had to take advantage of the few counter attempts they allowed. Philly kept up the pressure via a long-distance effort from Carranza with the keeper off his line that quickly saw a second chance saved by Gazdag in the center of the box off a cross from Uhre.

With the halftime whistle on the horizon, D.C. United sought to steal a goal with Chris Durkin and Pedro Santos both well off the mark from outside the box. The biggest scare came in the final minute of the opening half when Yamil Asad slipped a through ball into the box for Benteke. Blake saw the play and came off his line to make it a difficult finish for the D.C. playmaker. The Jamaican came out the victor in the 45th minute showdown with the reaction denial of the former Premier League striker.

After the first half which had both sides attempt five shots apiece, the chess match continued with the Boys in Blue attacking toward the River End. After another set piece chance was waved off for a foul by the Union, D.C. United earned the first corner of the half in the 51st minute that the Philly defense dealt with easily.

Wayne Rooney’s side continued to annoy the Union with compact lines without the ball. With the midfield seemingly unplayable, Gazdag had to drift back further into the midfield to get on the ball and attempt to create.

Moments after center back Jack Elliott made a perfectly timed slide tackle in the box to deny a another scoring chance for Beneteke, the Union thought they had the opening goal in the 65th minute. Direct as the Union prefer to do, Elliott went long with a pass over the top to Carranza. The Argentinian chipped the keeper as he raced off his line and battled once again with Pines with the ball trickling over the goal line. The celebrations were short lived however as the goal was called off for the entanglement between two as Carranza tried to keep Pines from getting a clearance.

With the crowd once again into the contest, the rivalry again hit another level of tension as Gazdag was booked after getting taken down hard. Off the free kick the Union kept up the pressure with the ball out wide to Olivier Mbaizo that crashed off Carranza and went just wide of the post.

Head Coach Jim Curtin injected some fresh legs to the top of the lineup with Chris Donovan on for Uhre with a quarter of a hour left. D.C. United took control in the immediate build up but couldn’t break through against the five-man backline. Things changed again with 10 minutes left as the Boys in Blue changed into the familiar 4-4-2 diamond with homegrown Jack McGlynn on for Damion Lowe. With the Union fully committed to a win in regulation, D.C. tightened the defensive pressure even more and lived on the counter with a scramble in the box concluding with a Mbaizo block on Beneteke.

Philly earned a massive chance to score at the end of regulation with a corner kick from Jesus Bueno. The midfielder floated a ball into the middle of the box that saw a pair of players knocked it down into the path of Donovan. With his back to goal, Donovan quickly turned for a shot but sent it over the top.

In the penalty shootout, D.C. United grabbed early momentum as Beneteke converted in the first round while Gazdag saw his bottom right corner attempt saved by Bono. Both sides traded finishes in the second and third rounds as Carranza and Elliott scored for the Union to keep them in it. The Union were given a chance in the fourth round when Chris Durkin blasted his shot over Blake and the rest of the goal setting up another memorable finish from McGlynn. With each kick filled with knockout round pressure, both D.C. United’s Eric Davis and Philly’s Jesus Bueno snuck their shots under the keeper to send it to sudden death. In the sixth round Pedro Santos crashed his shot off the post to set up the winner for Mbaizo who finished it with a confident blast.