By JOEY SAMUEL
The Philadelphia Union's first run into the later rounds of the U.S. Open Cup in team history came to an end Wednesday night, but manager John Hackworth thinks the 2-0 semifinal loss to Sporting Kansas City is a great opportunity for his team to grow.
"This is a great game for us to learn from," Hackworth said. "There are a lot of things that we can use from this game moving forward. When you dissect this kind of game, and you look at it, you can get better. It's terribly disappointing, but this is one of those very teachable moments."
While Philadelphia may have come up short in their bid to capture the first trophy in the franchise's three years of existence, the team has improved drastically since the run began. The Union are 6-3-0 in league and Open Cup play since beginning their cup run with a win over the Rochester Rhinos on May 29.
"It gave a team something really to play for at a time when they didn't have anything to play for," Hackworth said. "It allowed us to get back some confidence against some really good teams."
More notes from the Union are after the jump:
OKUGO CONTINUING TO IMPRESS AT CENTERBACK
Despite conceding two goals in the loss to Sporting KC, the Union defense has performed well in the last few games under Hackworth. A key part of that has been Amobi Okugo, who has impressed in his role as a centerback after transitioning there from the midfield due to a lack of team depth at the position. But with newly signed defender Bakary Soumare soon to debut, Hackworth will have a decision to make as to which player he should include in his starting lineup.
"Amobi was fantastic again, and I think when a player is playing like that there's no way you're going to replace him," Hackworth said. "So hopefully [Soumare] gets back soon, and that'll be some tough decisions. But crazier things have already happened, like injuries. We're on a long stretch of games here, so it's good to have that depth."
Soumare has yet to debut for Philadelphia after signing in June. He had gone through surgery two months prior to signing, and he was listed as doubtful prior to the Open Cup semifinals.
UNION PREPARE FOR MONTREAL
Saturday will mark the Union's first-ever meeting with the expansion Montreal Impact. Montreal sits one spot above Philadelphia in the standings, with 21 points to the Union's 17. However, the Impact have played four more games than the Union. In their last game, Montreal came from behind to defeat the Columbus Crew, 2-1, last Saturday.
For Philadelphia, fatigue is starting to become a factor, as Saturday's meeting with Montreal will be the team's seventh game in 21 days.
"We've spent a lot of energy in the last few games," captain Carlos Valdes said. "I think it's normal when your legs feel heavy. We know we have a lot of games in July, and mentally we have to be in a better condition. It's hard for us, because we are playing almost every three days. The most important thing is to continue to work hard."
The game comes during an important stretch for the Union, who will play their second of seven straight league games against Eastern Conference competition.