By FRANCO PANIZO
CHESTER, Penn. — The Philadelphia Union may have suffered a scare, but in the end they were the ones who looked the most frightening.
Led by a brace from Lionard Pajoy, the Union advanced to the U.S. Open Cup semifinals with a 5-2 victory over USL Pro club Harrisburg City Islanders at PPL Park on Tuesday night. The result may have finished in lopsided manner, but it took a second half penalty kick from Pajoy and a floated effort from substitute Gabriel Gomez to give the hosts breathing room in front of the 4,313 fans in attendance.
The Union let a 3-0 lead at halftime nearly vanish, as Brian Ombiji and Morgan Langley punished defender Porfirio Lopez's slack marking to pull Harrisburg within a goal. Lopez was starting in central defense due to the suspension of Carlos Valdes.
"We came into the locker room up 3-0 and the first thing that (head coach John Hackworth) said was, 'They were down 3-0 to New England with way less time (before coming back and winning),'" said Jack McInerney, who scored the Union's second goal in the ninth minute. "We had to go out and realize that they had the power to come back. Two goals and we were like, 'Here we go again,' but we stuck to it and grinded it out."
With the City Islanders throwing numbers forward in search of that equalizer, the Union managed to build on their lead when Pajoy converted on a spotkick in the 69th minute that was questionably awarded after substitute Antoine Hoppenot was brought down in the box.
Gomez then made sure there would be no comeback and that the Union advanced in the tournament by racing onto a deflected long ball and lofting it over Harrisburg goalkeeper Nick Noble nine minutes before the end of regulation.
"We want to get the trophy," said Amobi Okugo. "Semifinals, it's good but it is not good enough. We want to give silverware to the fanbase, to the organization for them putting their trust in us."
The other Philadelphia goal-scorer was Freddy Adu, who netted the opener in the fifth minute on a penalty kick that was given because of a handball.
The Union's victory booked a semifinal match at home versus Sporting Kansas City, who defeated USL Pro outfit Dayton Dutch Lions, 3-0, in the quarterfinals on Tuesday night.
Philadelphia played Sporting KC in an MLS game at PPL Park this past Saturday, with the Union winning, 4-0, in one of the bigger surprises of the season.
"I guarantee it's not going to be a 4-0 game again," said Adu. "They're going to come out flying, especially since we just played them. But whoever it is, we're going to prepare for it and we're going to play our game because that's what's been working for us."