Only fitting, wasn’t it?
After 120 minutes of scoreless action, Philadelphia and Rochester went to penalties for the first time ever in PPL Park’s six-year existence.
The hero? Philadelphia native John McCarthy, playing against his former team and good friends. McCarthy came up with a ridiculous three-save performance against to move the Union into the Round of 16 in the 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup where they’ll play the winner of New York City FC and New York Cosmos.
“This competition though is about survive and advance and that’s what we did,” head coach Jim Curtin said. “It wasn’t pretty but I thought in the first 20-25 minutes we were good, had a good tempo, good rhythm to us and had them pinned in. If you look back to the play where they make a mistake and C.J.’s in with Chaco and we don’t get that one right. I think I leaned over to [assistant coach] Mike [Sorber] at that point and said ‘it’s gonna be one of those nights.’”
And it was. Perhaps to be expected, though.
The table leaders of USL – who also happen to be undefeated in 14 competitive games this year – stuck to their gameplan and frustrated the Union for much of the night. Philadelphia controlled much of the first half, managed 13 shots for the game, but didn’t test Rhinos goalkeeper much outside of a C.J. Sapong attempt early.
But Philadelphia stayed stingy defensively. Rochester put five shots on goal which forced McCarthy into a couple of big saves. Before penalties, his best save came in the 84th minute with a double-save off a point-blank attempt. He then pushed the ensuing free ball over the net.
“He obviously has a presence in there and good size,” Curtin said of his goalkeeper. “He always does well in PK’s when we’re in training. It’s always different though when it really matters. Of the three saves that he had, I thought the second one was special and on a different level. Very good saves from him. I don’t like shootouts but someone’s got to win and someone’s go to lose and he stepped up and bailed us out on a night where we weren’t great.”
Captain Maurice Edu got the team off to a flying start in the shootout, by burying his attempt.
“I felt confident when coach asked who wanted to take it,” Edu said. “I put my hand up and said I wanted to take it. I felt confident throughout the whole process and I was happy to score and put the pressure on them. And then McCarthy came up and made some big saves, and the other guys stepped up as well so, overall, we’re happy with the win.”
From there, Jonny Mendoza scored on Rochester’s first attempt. But it would be the only time they put it in the back of the net. McCarthy then stopped Vassilios Apostolopoulous, Tony Walls and Christian Volesky in order to preserve the win even before the fifth attempt for either team.
“I was just hoping to save a couple, I mean that’s all I really could hope for,” McCarthy said. “Penalty kick shootouts are kind of just 50-50, if you go the right way, hopefully you save it, and if you don’t, most likely it’s going in. I saved a couple so it was great, a great team effort.”
For the Union, Edu scored the opener. Vincent Nogueira scored the second attempt. Sapong missed the third and Cristian Maidana scored the fourth.
The Union will next play Saturday at 10:30 p.m. against Los Angeles Galaxy at StubHub Center in MLS action. They will find out who they play in the Round of 16 tomorrow (NYCFC or Cosmos) and will find out when and where that game will be played on Thursday at 11 a.m.