D.C. United (10-5-5, 35 points) at Philadelphia Union (5-10-4, 19 points)
What: Round of 16, 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup; When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
Where: PPL Park, Chester, Pa. Tickets: here (free for STM's)
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
There may not have been any fireworks after the game on Saturday at PPL Park, but there will probably be some tomorrow. On the field fireworks, that is.
The Philadelphia Union (5-10-4) are playing host to D.C. United (10-5-5) in the Round of 16 for the 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup tomorrow and the games between these two rivals are always entertaining.
“We’re familiar with each other,” head coach Jim Curtin said. “We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses so the film session is a very short one. You know who you’re going to be looking at so there won’t be any surprises; two teams that’ll compete hard.”
In the most recent game between the two teams in MLS play, the Union traveled down to RFK Stadium on a Saturday night to take on a United team in poor form. Sebastien Le Toux opened up the scoring early but United fought back and eventually won the game 2-1 after Zach Pfeffer was called for a handball in the box inside the final ten minutes of the game.
To make matters even worse, the penalty taker was Chris Rolfe, one of United’s more potent strikers and a player who could have been sent off for kicking out at Vince Nogueira’s thigh after a challenge. Rolfe escaped without only a warning but was then suspended one game by the MLS after they further reviewed the incident.
“Yeah, there’s probably still a little scar tissue there,” said Andrew Wenger. “Not exactly pleased at how we walked out of there with zero points, we probably at least deserved one, if not more.”
Playing D.C. on a Tuesday could pose one or two difficult personnel decisions to be made by Curtin, especially after playing just a few days ago. However, the team won’t play another game until the Portland Timbers come to town on July 11 so the question is who can play on very little rest and for how long.
“Physically, you have to take care of yourself but guys have been around this league long enough that they know what that entails,” Wenger said. “And also just mentally with trying to bring yourself down from one game and just slowly ease your way into the next as quickly as possible.”
The Union are coming off a 2-2 draw against the Montreal Impact in a very, very rain-filled game. Wenger and Sheanon Williams were left out of the starting lineup to rest, giving Ray Gaddis and Eric Ayuk the start. Both played well initially, especially Ayuk who notched the opening goal with a laser beam to the top left, only for Ayuk to be sent off for a second yellow in the 78th minute.
D.C. United come into the game off of a 0-0 draw with Toronto FC. They are in the middle of a tough series of games, playing six games in 17 days with four straight away games, ending at Seattle on July 3.
In terms of the Open Cup, both United and the Union have been off since the third week of June when they were taken in extra time by USL teams, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds and the Rochester Rhinos respectively. United won their game 3-1 at the end of extra time but the Union had to fight through a penalty shootout in order to advance.
These two teams also possess quite a history in the Open Cup, meeting in 2011, 2012, and 2013. In 2011, the teams met under the old format where only eight MLS teams qualify, the top six making it automatically and two more after a qualification playoff. D.C. won the game in penalties after finishing 2-2 after 120 minutes. The Union got revenge in 2012 under the current format, defeating United in the fourth round of play 2-1 at the end of extra time. United, however, would go on to get their own revenge, defeating the Union 3-1 in the 2013 Open Cup.
Both the Philadelphia Union and D.C. United play to win the Open Cup, taking each game as serious as if it was an MLS game. Regardless of who actually takes the field tomorrow, both teams will be fighting for at least a full 90 minutes, looking to advance to the next round.
“It’s going to be a fight,” Curtin said. “They compete, [Ben Olsen]’s a great coach, and he’s going to have his players motivated so we can’t take them lightly obviously. And we’re not a team that’s going to throw out a second group in the Open Cup as well. We’re going to play to win. It’s a competition that this club and I take very seriously so we’ll have to be ready for a tough team going in.”
What do you think is a gameplan for success against D.C. United? Leave your comment below.
Contact Union writer Kyle Basedow at firstname.lastname@example.org.