Another heartbreak at PPL Park: Union lose Open Cup Final on penalties

It was supposed to be a night of success, celebration and career defining moments for the Philadelphia Union as they hosted their second consecutive U.S. Open Cup Final at PPL Park, but unfortunately the success and celebration went to Sporting Kansas City who lifted their third trophy in four years. Kansas defeated the home team 7-6 in a penalty shootout following 120 minutes of gruelling football that resulted in a 1-1 draw.

It was the youngest player in Sporting KC’s side Jordi Quintillá who stepped up and pushed the final penalty past the Substituted in John McCarthy (we’ll get to that later) and gave Kansas the victory.

The game started brightly enough for the Union, with some great attacking moves from Barnetta and Maidana especially. PPL Park was thumping and the atmosphere was simply magical. Almost as magical as when the deadline was broken just 23 minutes in. It was almost written in the stars that Mr. U.S. Open Cup himself, Sebastien Le Toux would open the scoring for the night following a sensational through ball from Vincent Nogueira to lead Le Toux in behind his marker. The all time leading goalscorer in the competition added yet another to his tally and his teammates jumped on top of him in glee as PPL Park erupted with joy.

The Union continued to push down the field and create chances but none would find their way through. Strangely, the team were playing very attacking football. Many expected the Union who are traditionally a counter-attacking team, to sit back and let SKC attack before sending some route one passes up to C.J Sapong. But the Union were hungry. It was evident. This wasn’t just a game, this was a moment..and the players were scrapping for every ball, every challenge like it was the last game they’d ever play.

Andre Blake had a fantastic game, stopping five shots in total and one lucky rebound. After a shot was fired off the inside of the outside post, Blake was at the right place at the right time to stop a ball from trickling behind him having already leapt to the floor to stop the original shot.

Blake was having a huge game but in the 65th minute, Graham Zusi found a loose ball and picked out Nemeth who hit it first time to break the will of Andre Blake and tie the game at 1-1.

The final twenty minutes or so were puzzling. With the game becoming rapidly more intense..Curtin was almost refusing to make substitutions. Conor Casey made his way onto the field late on to try and make a difference and was almost successful on a couple of occasions.

But as the teams neared the end of a busy yet tiring extra time period, Curtin had two substitutions left to make. So with barely any time left on the clock, he brings on Andew Wenger and John McCarthy. Two of the most controversial decisions of the season, let alone the game. Would Ayuk have been a more favourable option? Would this game had ended differently if you had kept your hot handed goalkeeper in net for penalties? We will deliver full analysis in the days ahead over various articles and a podcast but for now we’re just looking at the facts.

The shootout ensued and whilst the big boys like Le Toux and Nogeuira were hitting their shots with ease, the same couldn’t be said for Andrew Wenger..who looked nervous and pushed a shot straight into the hands of Melia and with it, his teams chances of an Open Cup. Maurice Edu also missed his spot kick.

McCarthy’s guesses weren’t bad and in fact he went the right way on most occasions, but often fell just a tad the Union did in this game. There are a lot of factors to talk about when discussing the narrowest of losses, and we will in the coming days but for now, the point remains. The business is unfinished for another year as Kansas lift their third piece of Silverware in two years, claim a Champions League spot and $250,000. it’s a shoulda, coulda, woulda type game and one we will be reflecting on for a long time as the Sons of Ben prepare for a fresh campaign next season. The question is, will Curtin still be leading it?