CHESTER, PA–The Philadelphia Union’s quest to reach a third straight U.S. Open Cup final began with a wild finish in front of the home crowd at Talen Energy Stadium.
Roland Alberg’s free-kick strike in second half stoppage time handed the two-time runners’ up a berth in the fifth round of the competition against the Harrisburg City Islanders.
The Union wasted little time opening up an advantage on their former affiliate as Walter Restrepo knocked in the first shot of the game in the third minute. The goal came in the first start of the season for the former New York Cosmos man.
Ilsinho came close to putting the home side ahead by two in the ninth minute, but his effort from the right side of the box drifted to the left of the net.
Neither side produced any significant chances for the next 30 minutes as the ball was lumped from side to side in an attempt to create some type of attacking spark.
The Union came to life right before the halftime whistle as Fabian Herbers fed Roland Alberg for the club’s second tally of the contest. Herbers broke from left to right to feed the Dutchman for his first-career goal for the Union.
Reserve netminder John McCarthy, who dazzled during the 2015 version of the competition, made a top-notch save on the first chance of the second half. The third-string goalkeeper stopped James Thomas’ shot from the left side of the box in the 52nd minute to preserve the Union’s clean sheet for the time being.
Harrisburg goalkeeper Nick Noble produced a fine save of his own in the 62nd minute as he blocked Fabian Herbers’ shot from close range with his gloves.
The visitors pulled one back in the 79th minute by way of substitute Craig Foster, who used a clever turn at the top of the box to set up a shot that rolled into the bottom-left part of the net.
Minutes after going a man down, the City Islanders struck for a surprise equalizer off the boot of Bobby Warshaw.
That would not be the last goal in stoppage time as Alberg struck for his second of the contest on a free kick from 25 yards out to avoid extra time.
The Union will learn their their fifth-round opponent during Thursday’s draw.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Roland Alberg‘s first tow goals in a Union uniform came at crucial junctures. He scored right before halftime to put the Union ahead by two after 45 minutes and he delivered a critical free kick on one of the game’s last kicks.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Alberg’s moment of brilliance in second half stoppage time helped the Union avoid extra time at the start of a busy June in which they will play five games in 19 days, including the fifth-round match.
MATCH TO FORGET
Former Union forward Aaron Wheeler did little to contribute to the Harrisburg cause in the span of 90 minutes. His biggest involvement came in the 57th minute, when he blocked the shot of his own teammate from reaching the net.