Photo: Earl Gardner
Even a lengthy delay due to inclement weather could not dampen the Union’s attacking spirits as Philadelphia Union dominated in a 3-0 win in the U.S. Open Cup over the USL’s Rochester Rhinos.
After a Rochester mistake gifted Josue Martinez the opener five minutes into the match, Freddy Adu sealed the tie with a brace, tallying with his head in the 29th minute before converting a second half penalty to see off the subpar Rhinos.
Going into the international break, the Union will take confidence from the outpouring of goal-scoring opportunities, which stands in stark contrast to their recent slate of league matches, where they are winless in their last five.
With captain Carlos Valdes suspended for the match, Amobi Okugo partnered with Sheanon Williams in the center of the Union back line, with Michael and Gabriel Farfan at right and left back respectively. In the midfield, Freddy Adu and Brian Carroll, who wore the captain’s armband on the night, were joined by Keon Daniel and Michael Lahoud. Martinez joined Lionard Pajoy up top.
What appeared to be a traditional 4-4-2 on paper was anything but in practice. Both Farfan brothers pressed high up the pitch, passing Carroll and Lahoud on most occasions as they looked to probe and challenge Rochester’s outside backs at every opportunity.
The early pressure quickly paid dividends for the Union as they snatched the lead in fifth minute. Patient build-up play earned the Union a corner after Gabe Farfan played in Keon Daniel. From the set piece, Josue Martinez pounced on a poor attempted clearance and poked the ball inside of the far post.
With their tails up following the goal, the Union again threatened. Michael Farfan, a constant menace to the Rhinos defense, skipped past Jack Traynor. Cutting his pass back against the grain, Farfan found an onrushing Adu, who blazed his effort narrowly wide of Kristian Nicht’s post.
In the 22nd minute, with the Union firmly in command, play was suspended as bolts of lightning filled the sky. Both sides headed to the locker room to see out the storm.
When the players reemerged from the tunnel and the match resumed, the Union were back on the front foot. Martinez was the architect, as he was for much of the night. He teed up Adu, who saw his shot tipped wide. Moments later, Michael Farfan could not get all of his half-volley from a corner kick.
In the 29th minute, the Union doubled their advantage when Martinez shook off Quavas Kirk, beat him to the endline and hooked his cross into the box. Adu attacked the swerving ball, powering his header past Nicht and putting the Union firmly in command of the match.
With the Union attack coming in waves, the chances came fast and furious. There were a few nervous moments in the defensive third as Williams and Okugo held down the fort nearly by their lonesome, but the Union took a comfortable two-goal lead into the locker room at the half.
After carrying their momentum through the rain delay, the halftime break didn’t derail the Union’s focus. While the slippery pitch caused some early issues for the Union in possession, they were quickly back in the ascendancy.
The sides exchanged yellow cards as the wet turf, and Rochester’s increasing frustration ratcheted up the level of physicality. After Jack Traynor went in the book for hauling Adu down from behind, Michael Lahoud flew into a crunching tackle of his own in the 56th minute.
Martinez’s scintillating form continued for the Union, as he nearly set the table for the Union’s third on two occasions. With plenty of space on the right flank, he found Daniel, who in turn squared to Adu. Adu then blasted his shot just over the crossbar.
In the 63rd minute, Martinez cut across the top of the box, quickly returning Adu’s pass, though the shot again flew to the wrong side of the crossbar.
With the Union failing to convert on their chances, the Rhinos nearly cut the lead in half. A slip from Okugo allowed the Rhinos to cut in from the right wing. Williams scrambled to cover, and a relieved Konopka looked on as the shot was skewed badly past his far post.
It proved a wake up call for the Union. They charged forward with purpose and were finally able to kill off the match in the 73rd minute. Michael Farfan, the Union’s most dangerous one on one player all night, swapped wings when his brother came off with a knock. Rhinos right back Quavas Kirk was ill prepared to cope with Farfan’s threat. Having been thoroughly beaten in the box, Kirk clumsily dragged down the Union attacker, giving the referee no choice but to point to the spot.
Freddy Adu stepped up and dispatched the penalty, taking the wind out of Rochester’s sails.
Over the final ten minutes, the Union looked to pad their statistics, but for the quick reflexes of Nicht in goal and some help from his crossbar kept them at bay.
First Martinez raced away, beating two players before stinging Nicht’s fingertips with a drive Nicht barely pushed over the bar. Next it was Pajoy’s turn as he latched onto Keon Daniel’s inswinging service, drilling his header off the bar before Brian Carroll dragged his follow up just wide of the post.
It became a shooting gallery. Kai Herdling’s attempted curler deflected into the path of Martinez, whose blast was parried by Nicht but fell back to the rampant Costa Rican international. Martinez’s second effort roll inches wide of the near post, as the Union finished off the match with the same energy with which they had begun.
The victory marks the Union’s first triumph in the US Open Cup and advances them to the fourth round of play where they will go on the road to face DC United on Tuesday, June 5.
Chris Konopka; Michael Farfan, Sheanon Williams, Amobi Okugo, Gabriel Farfan (Kai Herdling ’70); Michael Lahoud, Brian Carroll, Freddy Adu (Jimmy McLaughlin ’80), Keon Daniel; Lionard Pajoy, Josue Martinez (Chandler Hoffman ’90)
Unused Substitutes: Chase Harrison, Antoine Hoppenot, Zach Pfeffer, Greg Jordan
Kristian Nicht; Jack Traynor, George Kyriazis, Troy Roberts, Quavas Kirk (Michael Tanke ’76); Drew Cost (Michael Zaher ’59), Tyler Rosenlund, Daniel Earls, Jimmy Banks; Thomas McManus, Graciano Brito (Andrew Hoxie ’59)
Unused Substitutes: Brandon Miller, Conor Chinn, Masaki Hemmi, Kyle Manscuk
5 – PHI: Martinez (unassisted)
29 – PHI: Adu (Martinez)
73 – PHI: Adu (penalty)
40 – ROC: Earls (Caution)
52 – ROC: Traynor (Caution)
56 – PHI: Lahoud (Caution)
90 – Roc: Rosenlund (Caution)