Top Stories

Philadelphia left devastated after second straight U.S. Open Cup final defeat

MLS: U.S. Open Cup-Sporting KC at Philadelphia Union

Photo by Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports


CHESTER, Pa — Philadelphia Union manager Jim Curtin admits winning a club’s first trophy is one of the most difficult things to do in soccer.

For the second consecutive year, the Union fell short on home soil in the U.S. Open Cup final. A year after falling in extra time to the Seattle Sounders, Philadelphia dropped the championship match on penalties to Sporting Kansas City, 7-6, after playing to a 1-1 draw through 120 minutes.

“We continue to try and find our first. It’s the hardest thing to do in our game,” Curtin said. “The past two years have been an example of that. I think this year we were closer than Seattle. The building’s ready to erupt, and we came up a little short in penalty kicks. At that stage, it can go either way.”

The Union were on the front foot in the first half as they pounced for the opener in the 23rd minute by way of Sebastien Le Toux.

However, Philadelphia could not capitalize on another chance in the first half. Tim Melia made a pair of big saves in the 37th minute on Le Toux and Cristian Maidana to keep Sporting KC within one goal heading into the half.

Curtin’s halftime talk centered around finding a second before the visitors struck for an equalizer.

“I was really happy with how we played in the first half. At halftime, we talked about having that killer instinct to get the second goal. I said to them I think there’s going to be more goals in this game,” Curtin said. 

“It’s critical to get the next one. Us going up, 2-0, or them tying it, which is what wound up happening. It’s a little bit execution, a little bit of the ball bouncing your way,” Curtin said. “Their goalkeeper was good on the night. He made a few saves to bail them out. When you have a team a little bit scrambling, it is critical to take advantage and get the second goal.”  

Krisztian Nemeth’s equalizer took the wind out of the sails in PPL Park and the energy wasn’t fully recovered until late in the second half, when Conor Casey entered as the team’s first substitute.

Although Philadelphia did have a few chances to score in extra time, it ultimately came up short and went to a penalty shootout that featured a controversial decision at the goalkeeper position.

Curtin channeled his inner Louis van Gaal and replaced starter Andre Blake with penalty expert John McCarthy.

“Andre had a great game,” Curtin said. “Johnny’s in there for the PKs and made a save, but it just wasn’t good enough tonight.”

The change didn’t have a major effect on the shootout as McCarthy stopped one of the seven kicks he faced. The last one he conceded was the game-winner to Jordi Quintilla. The final dagger in the Union’s Open Cup hopes dealt a blow to team’s psyche.

“We’re double-devastated now. I don’t know. It’s bad. There’s no worse feeling than losing a final, and we’ve done it now twice at home,” Curtin said. “It’s hard. It’s hard to get the guys back up and motivated, but we have to. We have three games left in the year. It’s just a challenge to try to find positives in what was again so close to being a really special night.”


  1. i think it is hilarious that Feilhaber said they had studied McCarthy figuring he would be starting. so when he got subbed in, KC was happy about it.

  2. This game was just…. so Union.

    What started out as a well planned effort – high pressing with CJ, Seba running around like a madman (with purpose), Nogs running the show from deep with Chaco and Barnetta connecting – went off the rails as soon as the original course had to be deviated from. This is our team. This is our franchise. Promising start, goes to sh*t as soon as things don’t go exactly to plan. We have no ability to adapt. No ability to adjust. Those are bad traits to have in a sport that requires both to be successful.

    Curtin is going to be a good coach in this league some day. Today is not that today. He, once again, got his tactics right at the opening whistle, only to have the game pass him by as it was actually happening. His substitutions were questionable bordering on awful, and were executed at head scratching moments in the match.

    Tied 1-1 in a game that you desperately need to win – for your team, for your franchise, and not least of all for your fans – you remove your best chance creator with 13 minutes to play? This is a guy you pulled at halftime over the weekend specifically so he’d be ready to give you an all out effort in this game. I’m not focusing on the fact that he put on Conor Casey, I’m more focusing on the fact that he took off Chaco Maidana. Given the bench he had to work with, that’s a game-changing decision, in all the wrong ways.

    Then you pull your best striker with 5 minutes to play, and replace him with the least confident player in MLS, knowing said player is more than likely going to have to step up and hit a PK. Wenger is a guy who can’t even dribble this season, let alone place a PK in a pressure packed situation. If Curtin had swapped Sapong for Fernando Aristeguieta, I could get behind that. But Curtin didn’t put Nando on the bench for this game, instead opting to use that last international spot for Steven Vitoria. And, as you’d expect, Wenger didn’t have enough time to get into the flow of the game and then absolutely botched his PK. As soon as he stepped up and seemingly couldn’t place the ball to his liking, you knew it was over. If my options are a dead tired, exhausted and beat down CJ Sapong, or Andrew Wenger, I’m taking Sapong eight days a week and twice on a rainy Wednesday night in Chester.

    The goalkeeping switch is what it is. As much as Johnny Mac has stood on his head for us previously, I’ll just never buy that that was a good idea. Blake was having a great game and that was a wasted opportunity to bring on a level-headed veteran for the PK shootout, someone like a Brian Carrol or a Steven Vitoria.

    Not gonna lie, this one hurts. This was the chance to make this season relevant. To have this season actually mean something. But yet again, we finish with a heartbreaking loss in the Open Cup and we’re going to finish out of the playoff picture in league play. And that’s all just….. so Union.

    • Thanks for the great summary, as a non Union fan I didn’t fully grasp the impact of the Maidana and Sapong subs. The keeper McCarthy had a nice save but it was a very risky decision because Blake has been in good form.

    • I get the frustration, but A) Maidana was limping with some type of leg muscle injury, so he had to come out and B) Aristigueta wasn’t available b/c of the limitation on foreign players. Casey played well for the 15 min he had gas in the tank, even nearly won it for us with a great run that put him 1-on-1 with the keeper.

      I was surprised that Ayuk wasn’t put on the field over Wenger. To your point, if you rate Wenger over Ayuk, you’re never going to put Ayuk in the game–so why have him on the bench? Could have put Aristigueta on the bench over Ayuk instead. Either way, I don’t see how Wenger is 8/11 on the PK list. Considering where his head has been all season, I’d put him last out of all 14,000 people in the stadium if possible.

      And the idea that McCarthy would be a better shot-stopper than the taller, more athletic, more imposing Blake was, well, not proven right last night.

  3. The below quote tells me Curtin is done…or he very well should be. The Union is “double-devastated”, “is hard to get guys back up and motivated”, “its just a challenge to try and find positives”.

    Curtain just resign now. I don’t care if you are popular with the fans. You are the one that gave the game losing half time speech. You are the one that started a new goalkeeper controversy. You are the one that just destroyed your top two keepers confidence. I think people need to accept that Curtain is not the guy no matter how good a press conference he gives.

    “We’re double-devastated now. I don’t know. It’s bad. There’s no worse feeling than losing a final, and we’ve done it now twice at home,” Curtin said. “It’s hard. It’s hard to get the guys back up and motivated, but we have to. We have three games left in the year. It’s just a challenge to try to find positives in what was again so close to being a really special night.”

  4. so let get this straight. on sunday, vermes rests a bunch of his starters and gets a result (a tie) at home against the sounders. then, three days later, they win the usoc. is vermes just toying with all the other teams, or what?


Leave a Comment