Philadelphia Union kick off their US Open Cup campaign in the fourth round. This year they play a team that’s not from Harrisburg for the first time in a long while. They play Richmond Kickers of the USL. Bethlehem Steel FC, the Union’s USL affiliate have beaten them twice this season. Our Philly Sports Network Union Crew Preview if the Union can get past this foe and move onto the round of 16 in this knockout style tournament!
Two days after the loss to MLS’ top team in Atlanta United, Philadelphia welcomes the third-worst team in USL’s Eastern Conference, Richmond Kickers, to Chester. Richmond earned victories only three times so far this season. To help paint the picture a bit more, they conceded seven total goals in two matches against Bethlehem Steel FC – Week 1 & 8. Perhaps Philadelphia’s first 2018 Lamer Hunt U.S. Open Cup match will provide a chance for some reserve players to make impacts against a lesser team.
After all, that’s what this whole Cup is about right? Or, is it a tournament to be respected and its Cup sought after as prizeworthy? That’s a debate for another time.
What’s not debatable is with a 3-1-7 record and an underwhelming -7 goal differential, Richmond is in no means considered threatening – on paper at least. This is still professional soccer, meaning any team can beat another on any given day. That’s the nature of the game. And it’s beauty.
But don’t expect to see any surprises when the final whistle is blown Tuesday night.
The Kickers recently lost two straight home contests ahead of Tuesday’s clash. Most recently, a 2-1 loss to Pittsburgh Riverhounds was the result of poor defending late in games. Pittsburgh netted goals in the 72nd and 79th minutes for the road win.
According to Adam Culler of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, if you were to take every point the Richmond Kickers could have taken from winning positions this season, the team would be sitting in third place. Alas, that’s sadly not the case.
So, Philadelphia seems poised to earn a victory, further solidifying their gutsy play of late. Curtin and his club approach an opportunity to delight home fans, showcase young talent, and begin a quest for silverware.
But which lineup will take the field against Richmond? Jim Curtin mentioned youth, so youth it is.
“You’ll see the lineup we’ve chosen is still a very young one,” said Curtin yesterday. Expect to see Steel FC winger Michee Ngalina, 18 years old, or Derrick Jones to play for the blue and golf once again.
Alejandro Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin both were mentioned in terms of playing but I’d almost hope neither of them see the pitch. Better to let Anthony Fontana, Adam Najem, or Jones fill the midfield roles in an opportunity to express their talents.
A dark horse to suit up for Philadelphia could be Santi Moar, Steel FC’s talented, creative winger. Moar is a play-maker with a high attacking work rate. His skill set is difficult to defend when he finds open space. Much like Ngalina. In fact, the two of them have been terrorizing USL back lines consistently ever since Ngalina signed his contract back in late April.
Matt Real should play, or at least it would make sense to grant him some time at left back in the blue and gold once more. Real played a well-rounded 90+ minutes of solid defensive soccer for Bethlehem in their 2-1 road victory against North Carolina FC Saturday night.
Fabian Herbers has also showcased some flashes of attacking prowess at times with Bethlehem. It would be interesting to see him receive an opportunity to prove his worth once more as well.
Regardless of which young talent takes the pitch for Philadelphia, a loss would be a monumental embarrassment. A win would be expected, but nonetheless appreciated.
Prediction: 3-0 Union
Union Man of the Match: Auston Trusty
As the Union come to the end of their long stretch of games in a short amount of time, Philly will get a chance to give minutes to some players who have seen little playing time. While Jim Curtin likes to stay consistent when the team is playing well. I wouldn’t be shocked to see a whole new starting 11 as the Union begin their US Open Cup play.
Here’s a lineup I could see the Union play:
Looking at this squad I see opportunities for all. Jay Simpson will get a chance to show he’s worth his price tag. Ayuk and Herbers will have a chance to remind the team and fans that they are Union players not Steel FC players. Derrick Jones and Warren Creavalle will be given a chance in the middle of the field. Whoever plays better will likely start against Toronto, or both could if Bedoya’s red isn’t rescinded. Matt Real, Richie Marquez and Jack Elliot will also be given a chance to see if they can break through. John McCarthy will be back with his helmet to lead the Union on another Open Cup run in-goal.
The Bench is a mix of starters and a few surprises. I’d assume Adam Najem will be in the 18, because he is a Union player, and this would give him the opportunity for minutes. Steel FC standout Michee Ngalina will also be in the Union’s 18. Even though this would be so awesome to see, I wouldn’t be surprised if Jim Curtin roles out more of a mixture of starters and bench players.
As far as the matchup goes. The Union will look to dominate possession at home and get some of these newer faces comfortable wearing a Union shirt. I see Ray Gaddis as the only “starter” on the pitch as captain. If the Union do dictate the run of play, then they should be able to show they are a step above Richmond.
Richmond has had a bad year, but as Matt said they were always close to getting a result from a lot of their losses. In this one, If Richmond gets any momentum in the match they could be dangerous. However, even if the Union field a team that has played very little for the first team in 2018, they will have to step up and show their worth for the team!
I see the Union moving on to the round of 16 in the US Open Cup behind goals from Anthony Fontana and Derrick Jones!
Prediction: 2-0 Union
Union Man of the Match: Derrick Jones
Be sure to come back to Philly Sports Network for more Philadelphia Union, Steel FC, and other soccer content!
Follow our writers on Twitter:
Peace out Union fans!
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports