Match Recap

Union rally at Minnesota United but fall in U.S. Open Cup 


Philadelphia Union extended the match twice with a pair of late goals but ultimately saw their run in the U.S. Open Cup conclude at Minnesota United in a penalty kick shootout.

The Boys in Blue were the embodiment of Philadelphia’s never quit mentality with goals from Chris Donovan and Kai Wagner to extend the contest to an additional 30 minutes of action on Tuesday night. Donovan pounced on a deflected in the 77th minute to cut the deficit in half to set up a round of Open Cup magic from Wagner who scored on the final kick of the half with a one-touch goal off a volley from Joaquin Torres in the 90’+4. Wagner then delivered again on the final kick of extra time with a free kick golazo that sent the match to the penalty shootout.

The Boys in Blue showcased their depth on the road as they played their third match in a week. With the hectic schedule, Head Coach Jim Curtin made seven changes to the Starting XI to set the tone early in the match. Philly needed just 30 seconds to show their intent, pressing high and forcing a turnover by the Loons that led to a counter attacking chance. A direct pass on the grass in behind for Mikeal Uhre was just out of reach for the forward as the keeper came off his line and swept it clear.

Minnesota earned the first corner of the match which the Union quickly turned into an offensive opportunity as the defense cleared it out and to the boots of Joaquin Torres. The Union midfielder quickly made a cut back before sending a pass to Jesus Bueno in stride that had visiting side off and running but would end with a pass forward that was cut out by the Loons.

Wing back Kemar Lawrence sough to be a playmaker for the hosts early in the match, getting space on the left side of their attack to deliver crosses in hopes of testing the Union’s backline of Matt Real, Damion Lowe, Jack Elliott and Nathan Harriel. Just past the fifth minute, the former Red Bulls’ defender sent in a cross into the Union’s defensive 18 that was knocked down by a Loons player and to the feet of Hassani Dotson at the edge of the box. Seeing the opportunity to have a go on frame, the midfielder rushed the shot and ended up not testing goalkeeper Andre Blake at all.

After a bit of a back and forth battle in the midfield where neither side could get into an offensive rhythm, Lawrence pushed forward again and sought to test the Boys in Blue which Blake confidently snatched out of the air before a Loons player could get a flick. Seconds later the Union turned up their defensive pressure as Bueno forced a turnover on Minnesota’s side of the pitch. The turnover spilled centrally to Torres who quickly raced into the attack. Take a pair of touches, the Argentinian decided to go for a golazo with a left-footed blast from 35 yards out that ended up in Minnesota’s famed Wonderwall.

Just before the half hour mark Minnesota again created from the outside with a cross from the outside getting partially cleared from Harriel that Lawrence raced to the end line to regain possession. The defender struck a hard pass into the box for Joseph Rosales who went for the one timer but reigning MLS Team of the Matchday honoree Damion Lowe saw it coming and raced out to block the shot. Minnesota grew into confidence after the half chance, forcing Philly into a deep defensive block that forced communication across the field which saw success for the Union.

The game’s first official shot on goal came from the Union in a direct attack in the 35th minute as Torres showcased his finesse on the ball. Dropping deeper into the midfield to get on the ball, the midfielder got possession and went to work with a blazing run centrally to draw a pair of defenders into the middle of the pitch. Seeing Uhre making a run into the space on the wing, Torres sent a soft pass to the Danish forward. With the end line approaching, Uhre unleashed a blast from a tight angle that went was intent on going into the roof of the net but Minnesota’s Clint Irwin made the reaction save. Homegrown Jack McGlynn created a second chance off the play with a perfectly floated corner kick that connected with Lowe but the Jamaican’s header went wide.

Just before the break, Minnesota attempted to grab momentum with a late goal with a pair of chances created from the flanks with a blast from Rosales going wide on the quick switch.

Out of the break the Union made slight tactical adjustments to find ways to get in behind Adrian Heath’s backline of five. Building from the back, the Union found McGlynn on the left side where the homegrown could blast a volley over the Loons backline. It proved a successful path early, with Uhre racing into the box and earning a corner kick chance two minutes into the final half.

Finding the space behind the offensive minded wingbacks, the Union again pressed the space in the 53rd minute with Harriel intercepting a pass at the edge of the box and sending it forward. Two passes later Uhre was racing into the box and fired a right-footed shot on the ground that was saved. The Union grew in confidence with a pair of half chances less than a minute later with Torres looking to score from distance that was blocked at the top of the box. Andres Perea raced onto the rebound and had his own look from long range that went right to the keeper.

At the hour mark Minnesota tried to regain momentum with a combination of quick passes to catch the Union out. Pulling Elliott out of possession, the Loons sought to get in behind but Real read it perfectly and quickly pushed the ball forward. After Chris Donovan earned a free kick just past the center stripe, the Union sought to catch the hosts on their heels as McGlynn quickly sent a pass to Bueno on the left flank. The Venezuelan sent a hard cross into the box that led to a game of pinball in the box that ultimately saw Minnesota escape with unscathed.

In the 63rd minute, Philly again turned to another creative set piece chance as Torres went low on a free kick chance from the edge of the box that snuck around the box and forced a tough save by the keeper.

Buoyed by the defensive stand, the Loons broke through in the 68th minute. After a corner kick chance was cleared out of the area, Minnesota regained possession and went out wide to DJ Taylor who floated a cross into the box where substitute Bongokuhle Hlongwane got just enough of a flick to sent it inside the far post for the 1-0 lead.

Philly sought the response with a quick build up moments after allowing the goal sending a pass centrally to substitute Daniel Gazdag who sought to send Chris Donovan into the box but couldn’t connect early.

Minnesota doubled its lead in the 74th minute after a strong run by the goalscorer Hlongwane set up finish for Rosales. Countering against the Union’s pressure, the Loons substitute snuck past a pair of Philly defenders with a pair of cut backs before finding his teammate in stride for the finish.

Down a pair of goals, Philly went on the hunt as Julian Carranza entered for Perea to re-establish the Union in a 4-4-2 diamond attack. The forward came up huge with a key counter press that eventually led to the Boys in Blue making it a 2-1 contest. Gazdag began the play with a pass to Bueno for a volley to the edge of the box where Donovan sought to tap it to the Hungarian playmaker. Minnesota intercepted the ball and tried to send it forward but Carranza jumped on the ball to flick it into the box. Donovan reacted first running into the box and scored off the bounce with a smooth right-footed finish.

The Union kept their foot pressed on the ground looking in search of the tying goal and earned a pair of chances that would end up off the mark with long-distance efforts from Torres.

Four minutes were added to the second half where Minnesota looked to get an important insurance goal on the counter in the 91st minute with a 2v1 opportunity. Damion Lowe played it perfectly to stretch his legs out to chop down a cross into the box and quickly got things moving back the other way.

Philly got a dose of Open Cup magic in the dying moments of the contest as Torres turned once again put on a show with his skills to create a bit of space to fire a cross to the far post. Pressing high, substitute Kai Wagner raced forward and unleashed a blast off the volley that raced past the keeper to send the match to extra time.

The first frame of the extra period saw both sides trade chances with the Minnesota United regaining the lead in the 103rd minute of play. With a man advantage due to a Union player sidelined after a challenge near the sideline, the Loons capitalized on the throw in from Rosales as he tossed it into Franco Fragapane. The Loons midfielder tapped it right back to Rosales who whipped a hard cross into the box that Hlongwane snuck past Andre Blake to make it a 3-2 scoreline.

Needing another goal to extend the contest even more, the Boys in Blue sought to make the most of the little bits of space the Loons allowed in their defensive block as they looked to see out the result. Minnesota gave the Boys in Blue a lifeline in the 116th minute as Blake made a huge diving stop off a free kick blast from Rosales that spilled out to Cameron Dunbar who put the rebound wide.

In all out attack mode with only moments to spare, Harriel was fouled outside the box to set up a free kick chance for the Boys in Blue. Wagner opted to have a go once more, ripping a right-footed blast through the wall and inside the near post that left the Loons stunned and the match level at 3-3.

In the penalty shootout the Union and Loons traded conversions through the first two roads. In Round No. 3, Blake perfectly positioned himself to deny Arriaga with a low save to his left but Minnesota’s Clint Irvin answered with save of his own. Neither side would concede and sent the shootout to sudden death that ended in Round 8 as Irwin made a second save to see the hosts through to the Round of 16.

Philadelphia Union is back in MLS action this weekend as they face off against Western Conference foe Colorado Rapids on Saturday, May 13th. Kick off from Dick’s Sporting Goods Park is set for 9:30 p.m. ET with the match broadcast live on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.

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