U in Review — USOC: Philadelphia Union vs. Orlando City S.C.

Match Coverage, Match Recap, News, Union, US Open Cup

Philadelphia Union, on the backs of an early Alejandro Bedoya goal and solid defending from their young defenders, defeated Orlando City SC, 1-0, to advance to the Semi-Finals of the U.S. Open Cup.

Survive and advance is (somewhat) what the Philadelphia Union did on Wednesday night, when they defeated visiting Orlando City SC, 1-0. Only, the Union looked fairly comfortable, and thrived in their attack more so than survived.

By the final whistle, the Union had peppered more than 19 shots in total on Orlando’s goal, completing nearly 80 percent of their passes in the attacking third and managing almost 54 percent of the possession.

Orlando looked lifeless and stumped in its own attack, and were kept to just four shots on goal throughout the contest.

A win sees the Union advance to the Semi-Final Round of this year’s Open Cup. It will be the fourth time in club history that the Union have made it this far. Philadelphia will face the winner of Chicago Fire vs. United Soccer League outfit Louisville City F.C. on a date still to be determined.

Philadelphia captain Alejandro Bedoya put the home side ahead early in the fourth minute, firing home a poor deflection from Orlando keeper Earl Edwards Jr. that came off a Fabrice-Jean Picault header.

Bedoya, unmarked, positioned himself nicely at Orlando and Edwards’ back-post, smashing home the ensuing rebound. It was an emblematic goal for the Union captain, who roamed all parts of the field throughout the evening.

Philly nearly doubled their lead in the 15th minute. In retrospect, Borek Dockal was the player that probably should have finished for the home side.

David Accam’s dummy in the Lions’ penalty area fooled the opposing Orlando defenders, but did not fool his teammate, Dockal, who stormed into the penalty area and let off a low-bearing shot, which Edwards parried away for a Union corner.

Dockal fired off target more than once on the night while Accam was subbed off by coach Jim Curtin in the 59th minute for Marcus Epps.

Accam, who scored a dramatic match-winner in Chicago last Wednesday night, looked rather sluggish from the off, with the Ghanaian losing possession of the ball on several instances throughout the first and second half.

Picault, snubbed by Edwards earlier in the game, almost found redemption in the dying embers of the match. Picault sped past Orlando right-back Donny Toia in the 79th minute, before firing a shot just wide of the Lions’ post.

It was one of the few chances for either side for the remainder of the game. Bedoya, the lone scorer, had a blast from outside the box that was parried away by Edwards in the 90th minute.

Overall, the Union looked content bunkering in and taking chances as they materialized. Players like Epps and Picault continued to size up and dribble hard at Orlando’s full-backs, but were unable to connect with second-half sub C.J. Sapong in the box.

Orlando, on the other hand, appeared to show little desire to chase the game, subbing off their playmaker, Josué Colman, midway through the second-half while still trailing the Union 1-0.

That said, both of the Union’s young defenders, Mark McKenzie and Auston Trusty, were big reasons the Blue and Gold kept a clean sheet and punched their ticket into the Semi-Finals of the tournament.

Scoresheet

Philadelphia Union

Alejandro Bedoya (4′)

Orlando City S.C. 

None

Shots

Philadelphia Union

19 Total; 9 On

Orlando City S.C. 

10 Total; 4 On

Possession

Philadelphia Union

53.6%

Orlando City S.C. 

46.4%

Bookings

Philadelphia Union

None

Orlando City S.C. 

Donny Toia (85′) 

Starting XI

Philadelphia Union (4-2-3-1)

Andre Blake; Ray Gaddis, Auston Trusty, Mark McKenzie, Keegan Rosenberry; Alejandro Bedoya, Haris Medunjanin; Fabrice-Jean Picault, Borek Dockal (Warren Creavalle, 83′), David Accam (Marcus Epps, 59′); Cory Burke (C.J. Sapong, 63′)

Orlando City S.C. (4-2-3-1) 

Earl Edwards Jr; Mohamed El-Munir, Amro Tarek, Shane O’Neill, Donny Toia; Will Johnson, Oriol Rosell (Cameron Lindley, 70′); Josué Colman (Stéfano Pinho, 61′), Sacha Kljestan, Chris Mueller (Dillon Powers, 45′); Dominic Dwyer

PFD’s Player of the Game

Jason Hannigan

I was torn between Union captain and goalscorer Alejandro Bedoya and Mark McKenzie, but ultimately went with the young defender.

McKenzie was a rock in the back, shutting down and frustrating United States forward Dom Dwyer all night long. McKenzie took some hits, but stood tall, putting out fire after fire in front of Andre Blake.

Yes, No. 4 made his share of mistakes, taking silly fouls here and there, but it is to be expected from a young center back. Nevertheless, the game ended 1-0 in the Union’s favor, and McKenzie is a big reason it did and that Philly is moving on in the Open Cup.

Mark McKenzie. My pick for PFD’s Player of the Game.

Next Match

Philadelphia returns to MLS play on Saturday, July 21 when the Union host the visiting Los Angeles Galaxy at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, PA. Kick off for the match is slated for 7:00 PM EST, and will be broadcasted on PHL17.

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U in Review — USOC: Philadelphia Union vs. New York Red Bulls

Match Coverage, Match Recap, News, Union, US Open Cup

Cory Burke’s second-half goal was the difference, as the Philadelphia Union held on to defeat the New York Red Bulls 2-1, in the Fifth Round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, at Talen Energy Stadium.

Burke missed a free-header in the 31st that peeled wide of Luis Robles‘ net. Four minutes later, in the 35th minute, the Jamaican skied a potential tap-in from about five yards out, sending it toward’s the club seats.

But it was the next chance, according to Burke, that he knew he would score.

“I missed those two chances,” Burke said. “But I had to keep my head up. That’s what professional players do.”

It was, overall, a professional performance by the Union, who eliminated the Red Bulls from the Open Cup on Saturday night, and Jim Curtin’s team were able to do so thanks, in part, to a moment of magic from Bosnian midfielder Haris Medunjanin and the eventual match-winner from arguably the Man of the Match, Cory Burke.

Medunjanin’s goal in the 53rd minute was a thing of beauty that not only broke the deadlock, but turned the momentum of the Fifth Round cup tie in favor of the home side. Here’s the goal that sent The River End, as well as Talen Energy Stadium, into euphoria:

But it was Burke’s goal, a “special” and “great team goal,” according to Curtin in his post-match presser, that propelled the Union into the Quarter-Finals of the Open Cup tournament.

Despite missing several scoring opportunities in the first-half, the Jamaican international kept his head down, despite his own advice, and finished an excellent piece of Union interplay cooly under a diving Robles.

Union captain Alejandro Bedoya also deserves credit for moving off the ball, completing a give-and-go with his midfield partner, Medunjanin, and splitting the New York defense to find Burke, who was then in on goal.

New York pulled one back later in the game, in the 77th minute, with substitute Bradley Wright-Phillips slotting a shot past an outstretched Andre Blake.

Alejandro Romero Gamarra was quick to turn and play a pass to the feet of Wright-Phillips, who split the Union’s young center-backs and did what, as Red Bulls’ social puts it, “he does best.”

Curtin, despite praising his team’s overall performance on the night, offered constructive criticism for his young defenders, Mark McKenzie and Auston Trusty.

“Not great,” Curtin said before later adding, “I don’t think they were on the same page tonight … I don’t think it was their sharpest game. Maybe I’m critical and too hard on them because I see so much talent in them.”

McKenzie was humble in response to his coach’s post-match comments.

“It wasn’t a perfect game from us [McKenzie and Trusty],” McKenzie said. “I can pick out several mistakes I made, but it’s all part of the game, it’s a learning process. It’s all about learning.”

Wright-Phillips and Gamarra capitalized on a momentary lapse in communication, positioning and, perhaps, one of those few mistakes McKenzie can remember making. There weren’t many mistakes, to be fair, as the United States youth player looked composed and confident for the Union throughout the night.

Despite pulling a goal back, dominating in possession and applying late pressure on the Union’s backline, the visiting Red Bulls were knocked out by their I-95 rivals, a reversal of last year’s Open Cup fixture, when New York defeated Philly in penalties, at Red Bull Arena.

Philadelphia will host the winner of D.C. United or Orlando City SC at Talen Energy Stadium, on July 18.

Scoresheet

Philadelphia Union

Haris Medunjanin (53′), Cory Burke (61′)

New York Red Bulls

Bradley Wright-Phillips (77′)

Shots

Philadelphia Union

17 Total; 7 On

New York Red Bulls

18 Total; 6 On

Possession

Philadelphia Union

44%

New York Red Bulls

56%

Starting XI

Philadelphia Union (4-2-3-1)

Andre Blake; Ray Gaddis, Auston Trusty, Mark McKenzie, Keegan Rosenberry; Haris Medunjanin, Alejandro Bedoya; Fabrice-Jean Picault, Borek Dockal (Warren Creavalle, 83′), Ilsinho (Marcus Epps, 64′); Cory Burke (David Accam, 89’)

New York Red Bulls (5-1-3-1)

Luis Robles; Kemar Lawrence, Hassan Ndam (Florian Valot, 73′), Aurélien Collin, Tim Parker, Connor Lade; Tyler Adams; Marc Rzatkowski, Alejandro Romero Gamarra, Derrick Etienne (Daniel Royer, 61′); Carlos Rivas (Bradley Wright-Phillips, 61′)

PFD’s Player of the Game

Cal Dymowski

I thought Fabrice-Jean “Fafa” Picault was the Man of the Match.

He brought energy and skill that really livened up the attack for the Union. He was consistently creating chances and getting in behind the outside backs. His dribbling ability gave other Union players a chance to get free to finish off efforts.

From start to finish, he was the most consistent and entertaining player on the pitch. Fafa Picault: my pick for PFD’s Player of the Game.

Jason Hannigan

Putting his two missed shots aside, I have to go with Cory Burke.

I thought the Jamaican international was excellent in holding up the ball for the rest of the Union midfield and attack, all night, and he put the New York backline under pressure early and often.

Not to mention, he made amends for his blunders with a calm finish later in the game. Cory Burke: my pick for PFD’s Player of the Game.

Next Match

Philadelphia returns to MLS play on Saturday, June 23 when the Union host the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, PA. Kick off for the match is slated for 5:00 PM EST, and will be broadcasted on PHL17.

U in Review –– Open Cup, Round Five Versus Red Bulls

Post-Match, U in Review, US Open Cup

More #UnfinishedBusiness –– Philadelphia Union’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup journey ended where it often began in the past: penalties.

There is no questioning the importance of the Open Cup –– it’s one of only two trophies clubs can win in the United States. Likewise, it’s without a shadow of a doubt just how seriously the Philadelphia Union take the tournament.

Emotions ran high on Wednesday night, when the Philadelphia Union and New York Red Bulls met for the second time in only 10 days, including their third consecutive meeting in the Fifth Round of the Open Cup.

While the Union have gotten the better of the Red Bulls in the Open Cup in previous encounters, their cup run came to an abrupt end, at the point of no return: the penalty spot.

FIRST 45′ 

From the beginning, the Union were barraged by attack after attack and forced to weather the storm, with the Red Bulls applying high pressure on Philadelphia’s backline, forcing Rosenberry, Yaro and Co. to play out of the pressure.

Union defenders did not receive much help from their midfield, who were forced to drop back behind the ball to shore up the defense, as the Red Bulls maintained much of the early possession.

They did, however, receive help from goalkeeper John McCarthy, who channeled his inner Andre Blake with a last-ditch thrash of a leg, denying a lurking Sean Davis of a sure early goal in the 9′.

In what was seen as a potential breakthrough for the Union and quite frankly, a gift at the other end, Fabrice-Jean Picault was denied on a breakaway in the 18′ by the Red Bulls’ shot-stopper, Ryan Meara. Picault’s follow up header was then tipped over the bar, setting up an ensuing wasteful corner that petered out like the rest of ’em on the night.

From there on out, it was the home side who looked most threatening and controlled the majority of the possession. In doing so, the Red Bulls managed to limit the Union to no real scoring chances, while setting up a few of their own.

Kemar Lawrence perhaps had the best of the chances for the New Jersey based club, after being carelessly left unmarked by Keegan Rosenberry and missing a free header in front of the net.

To be fair, the Jamaican should have done much better. And to be fair, he should have tied the match. But it was a match chock full of wasted opportunities for both sides, and it was the Union who were ultimately undone in the end.

Home fans were treated to a silky passing sequence from their side in the 38′, which served as a harbinger of what was to come just a few minutes later.

Rosenberry’s poor turnover in the 41′ led to the eventual Red Bulls goal, the only one they would manage to put past McCarthy in regular time. Confidence has been something hard to come by recently for the budding Union defender.

Derrick Jones and Jack Elliot were also at fault for the goal. Neither of the two picked up the goalscorer, Sacha Kljestan, who was allowed to trot into the box and tap in the goal just before halftime.

SECOND 45′ (+) 

Things continued to look pretty bleak for the Union, with New York continuing to control possession and dictate the midfield.

Jay Simpson remained a non-factor and was eventually subbed off for Marcus Epps, while Roland Alberg further justified why the Union are actively scouring the market –– or at least, should be –– for a true #10. No offense, Roland.

Ironically enough, it was #10 who sparked life into the Union with an absolute belter in the 85′.

Offense apparently not taken.

EXTRA TIME

Extra time Union was much better than 85′ and below Union. After Alberg’s goal, as well as the injection of Adam Najem into the midfield, it was clear the entire complexion of the match had shifted in favor of the Union, who had the momentum.

Najem was a game-changer. His energy and movement in the midfield seemed to inspire his teammates to dig deep late into the match. The former Red Bulls’ academy starlet was noticeably chomping at the bit, itching to leave a mark against the club that slighted him.

Picault was up for the match, but clearly down on his finishing. He was presented with a similar gift later into extra time, after the home side failed to deal with a ball in the air. Picault botched the breakaway, skying it into the South Ward section of Red Bulls’ supporters.

Union fans can at least appreciate him aiming for those jerk-offs in red.

Not so long after, the Union were dealt an unfortunate blow when CJ Sapong went down with a knee injury. He would make way for Chris Pontius. Curtin said after the match that he thinks Sapong will be ok and ready to go on Sunday, when the Union return home to Talen Energy Stadium to host New England.

Here is to hoping Sapong is, in fact, ok.

PENALTIES

McCarthy has been called upon in the past to be the hero on penalties, and he was entrusted with the responsibility once again. Although he guessed correctly on nearly every occasion, McCarthy was unable to save the day for the Union.

It was not to be, as Picault blanked on his third opportunity to score on the night.

UNION (3)

Alberg –– Goal

Pontius –– Goal

Picault –– Miss

Epps –– Goal

RED BULLS (5)

Zizzo –– Goal

Veron –– Goal

Royer –– Goal

Kljestan –– Goal

Felipe –– Goal


Ultimately, it was missed chances and the chances not taken that ended the Union’s cup run, not the Red Bulls; they were equally as poor in front of net.

For Curtin’s side, it’s Unfinished Business. It’s back to Philadelphia, back to the drawing board and hopefully back to the training ground, where the team could probably use a few extra shots on goal.


UNION XI:

John McCarthy, Fabinho, Jack Elliot, Joshua Yaro, Keegan Rosenberry, Derrick Jones, Haris Medunjanin, Fabrice-Jean Picault, Roland Alberg, CJ Sapong, Jay Simpson

UNION SUBSTITUTES:

Jake McGuire, Ray Gaddis, Oguchi Oneywu, Ken Tribbett, Marcus Epps, Chris Pontius, Adam Najem

U in Review — Open Cup, Round Five Versus Red Bulls

Match Recap, US Open Cup

More #UnfinishedBusiness. The Philadelphia Union’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup journey ended where it often began in the past: penalties.

There is no questioning the importance of the Open Cup –– it’s one of only two trophies clubs can win in the United States. Likewise, it’s without a shadow of a doubt just how seriously the Philadelphia Union take the tournament.

Emotions ran high on Wednesday night, when the Philadelphia Union and New York Red Bulls met for the second time in only 10 days, including their third consecutive meeting in the Fifth Round of the Open Cup.

While the Union have gotten the better of the Red Bulls in the Open Cup in previous encounters, their cup run came to an abrupt end, at the point of no return: the penalty spot.

FIRST 45′ 

From the beginning, the Union were barraged by attack after attack and forced to weather the storm, with the Red Bulls applying high pressure on Philadelphia’s backline, forcing Rosenberry, Yaro and Co. to play out of the pressure.

Union defenders did not receive much help from their midfield, who were forced to drop back behind the ball to shore up the defense, as the Red Bulls maintained much of the early possession.

They did, however, receive help from goalkeeper John McCarthy, who channeled his inner Andre Blake with a last-ditch thrash of a leg, denying a lurking Sean Davis of a sure early goal in the 9′.

In what was seen as a potential breakthrough for the Union and quite frankly, a gift at the other end, Fabrice-Jean Picault was denied on a breakaway in the 18′ by the Red Bulls’ shot-stopper, Ryan Meara. Picault’s follow up header was then tipped over the bar, setting up an ensuing wasteful corner that petered out like the rest of ’em on the night.

From there on out, it was the home side who looked most threatening and controlled the majority of the possession. In doing so, the Red Bulls managed to limit the Union to no real scoring chances, while setting up a few of their own.

Kemar Lawrence perhaps had the best of the chances for the New Jersey based club, after being carelessly left unmarked by Keegan Rosenberry and missing a free header in front of the net.

To be fair, the Jamaican should have done much better. And to be fair, he should have tied the match. But it was a match chock full of wasted opportunities for both sides, and it was the Union who were ultimately undone in the end.

Home fans were treated to a silky passing sequence from their side in the 38′, which served as a harbinger of what was to come just a few minutes later.

Rosenberry’s poor turnover in the 41′ led to the eventual Red Bulls goal, the only one they would manage to put past McCarthy in regular time. Confidence has been something hard to come by recently for the budding Union defender.

Derrick Jones and Jack Elliot were also at fault for the goal. Neither of the two picked up the goalscorer, Sacha Kljestan, who was allowed to trot into the box and tap in the goal just before halftime.

SECOND 45′ (+) 

Things continued to look pretty bleak for the Union, with New York continuing to control possession and dictate the midfield.

Jay Simpson remained a non-factor and was eventually subbed off for Marcus Epps, while Roland Alberg further justified why the Union are actively scouring the market –– or at least, should be –– for a true #10. No offense, Roland.

Ironically enough, it was #10 who sparked life into the Union with an absolute belter in the 85′.

Offense apparently not taken.

EXTRA TIME

Extra time Union was much better than 85′ and below Union. After Alberg’s goal, as well as the injection of Adam Najem into the midfield, it was clear the entire complexion of the match had shifted in favor of the Union, who had the momentum.

Najem was a game-changer. His energy and movement in the midfield seemed to inspire his teammates to dig deep late into the match. The former Red Bulls’ academy starlet was noticeably chomping at the bit, itching to leave a mark against the club that slighted him.

Picault was up for the match, but clearly down on his finishing. He was presented with a similar gift later into extra time, after the home side failed to deal with a ball in the air. Picault botched the breakaway, skying it into the South Ward section of Red Bulls’ supporters.

Union fans can at least appreciate him aiming for those jerk-offs in red.

Not so long after, the Union were dealt an unfortunate blow when CJ Sapong went down with a knee injury. He would make way for Chris Pontius. Curtin said after the match that he thinks Sapong will be ok and ready to go on Sunday, when the Union return home to Talen Energy Stadium to host New England.

Here is to hoping Sapong is, in fact, ok.

PENALTIES

McCarthy has been called upon in the past to be the hero on penalties, and he was entrusted with the responsibility once again. Although he guessed correctly on nearly every occasion, McCarthy was unable to save the day for the Union.

It was not to be, as Picault blanked on his third opportunity to score on the night.

UNION (3)

Alberg –– Goal

Pontius –– Goal

Picault –– Miss

Epps –– Goal

RED BULLS (5)

Zizzo –– Goal

Veron –– Goal

Royer –– Goal

Kljestan –– Goal

Felipe –– Goal


Ultimately, it was missed chances and the chances not taken that ended the Union’s cup run, not the Red Bulls; they were equally as poor in front of net.

For Curtin’s side, it’s Unfinished Business. It’s back to Philadelphia, back to the drawing board and hopefully back to the training ground, where the team could probably use a few extra shots on goal.


UNION XI:

John McCarthy, Fabinho, Jack Elliot, Joshua Yaro, Keegan Rosenberry, Derrick Jones, Haris Medunjanin, Fabrice-Jean Picault, Roland Alberg, CJ Sapong, Jay Simpson

UNION SUBSTITUTES:

Jake McGuire, Ray Gaddis, Oguchi Oneywu, Ken Tribbett, Marcus Epps, Chris Pontius, Adam Najem

Yes, You SHOULD Care About the Open Cup

Match Preview, Opinion, US Open Cup

Tonight the Philadelphia Union will enter the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in the fourth round; They will welcome former club affiliate, Harrisburg City, to Talen Energy Stadium.

For both sets of supporters, a Harrisburg, Philadelphia draw is more than enough to warrant a few eye rolls, some yawns, and a whole lot of MEH.

Harrisburg City versus the Philadelphia Union has become a familiar early round fixture in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Since 2012, the two sides have met on four separate occasions, with the Union prevailing in each of their four meetings.

On Wednesday, the two Pennsylvania-based clubs will cross paths once more, and there is more than enough reason to believe that these paths are fated to conjoin again around this time next year.

Fans are not the only ones irked by the repetitive nature of the tournament. Both sets of managerial brass have been outspoken leading up to Wednesday night’s match.

Union manager Jim Curtin voiced his growing frustrations with the monotony of the Open Cup in his weekly presser. Curtin said the Cup “loses luster” when teams are drawn to face one another over and over again. He added that regional play has generated a “lack of buzz” amongst fans.

Rather strong charges from the gaffer. Curtin has never been one to hold back or bite his tongue. Although his track record shows that he may be hit or miss with his comments, Curtin is absolutely spot on, this time around.

An hour before kickoff and there are an abundance of tickets still available. There is a pretty good chance that more empty seats will take in the fourth round tie than Union fans.

Now, that is not to say the tie has much, if anything, to do with the poor attendance. In fact, it has always been this way. There are a bevy of reasons for this.

Partly because many fans hail far from Chester, which makes it difficult for them to attend a midweek match. Partly because many fans do not get home from work in time.

This article is for the other fans, the ones who choose to not take advantage of discounted tickets, free parking, splendid Summer nights on the waterfront, and perhaps the most exciting time of the year: cup time.

Don’t be mistaken by Curtin’s comments.

Despite a less than savory draw, the Union are gunning for the U.S. Open Cup. Here are a few reasons why capturing the domestic cup is of top priority to the Philadelphia Union, and why more fans should pay attention to the tournament.

S I L V E R W A R E

Fans may remember the popular song: “15 years … NO CUPS!”

It seems as if it were only yesterday that Union supporters were singing the song aimed at riling up the New Jersey faithful.

Fact of the matter is, the Philadelphia Union are fast approaching the 10 year mark without any major silverware in their own cabinet. Emphasis on major; the SunCoast Invitational trophy doesn’t cut it.

Two (short-lived) trips to the playoffs in eight seasons is not so bad considering the success, or rather lack thereof, of the other major sports teams in the City of Philadelphia.

However, it also shows that the Union have some work to do in order to establish themselves as a perennial playoff contender in Major League Soccer. An MLS Cup trophy is probably not going to be paraded down Broad Street, or Stadium Drive in Chester, anytime soon.

An Open Cup trophy, on the other hand, might be the Union’s best chance at a first piece of silverware, which is not bad considering the Open Cup is the United States’ equivalent of a Football Association Cup in England.

There is certainly no questioning the Union’s recent dominance in the tournament. Say what you will about favorable ties or lucky breaks, the Union have played some scintillating football, some of their best, in the Open Cup.

More often than not, a gift from a referee or costly mistake from an opposing player is hardly enough to take down the likes of an FC Dallas or New York Red Bulls; it is a total team effort for 90′ or more that is needed to take down a goliath.

Overcoming sides of that ilk and booking consecutive trips to the final in 2014 and 2015 respectively not only proves that the Union have performed well in the Cup, but it also shows how close the Union are to obtaining their first major trophy.

Fans who haven’t paid much attention to the Union’s recent cup runs might have missed out on the chance to revel in the splendor of triumphant upsets and Union football played at its very best.

Young Guns

Auston Trusty was signed to a homegrown contract last August. He has since plied his trade for Bethlehem Steel, the Union’s affiliate club, as well as the United States Under-20 National Team. Trusty has yet to appear for the Philadelphia Union.

Summer friendlies are always an ideal time for a manager to roll out the kids, so that they may gain some first team experience. Good in theory, but what good is it that they are playing alongside fellow academy players who they practice with week in, week out. There are relatively few first team guys out there with them.

And what are they really playing for anyway? There are no points at stake, no trophy to be lifted after the final whistle is blown.

Curtin has the luxury –– especially in the earlier rounds of the Cup –– of tinkering with his XI, sprinkling in younger players such as Auston Trusty, Adam Najem and Marcus Epps among first team regulars.

Experience of playing alongside veterans such as Chris Pontius or Oguchi Oneywu in a major tournament, at that age is invaluable. And with other teams potentially rolling out their best XI, it allows for Curtin to measure the readiness of younger players to compete at a high level.

Fans who pay for the measly $15 ticket or dedicate an hour-and-a-half to watch the match via live stream, will have the pleasure of getting a glimpse at the next generation of Philadelphia Union players.

Who knows? They might even witness another belter and series of excessive dabs from one Auston Trusty.

(CONCACAF) Champions League

Winners of the U.S. Open Cup are awarded a place in the CONCACAF Champions league –– the North American version of the UEFA Champions League. This is something most Union and MLS fans seem to forget.

Listen. While the tournament might not include the likes of Juventus, Real Madrid or even Paris Saint-Germain, it does include Saprissa, Club América and Monterrey –– arguably amongst North America’s best.

They are recognized not just on the continent, but around the world. Competing against teams of that caliber would only help grow the burgeoning Union brand well beyond the immediate Philadelphia region.

New sponsors, new fans and even potential players. As with any modern football club, growing your brand globally is important for not only attracting new members to your club, but for ensuring longterm financial stability. Just look at Glasgow Celtic.

And while the Union are certainly not at that level just yet, being pitted against North American giants would only raise the Union’s level domestically. If you can stick around with Pachuca, you can certainly compete with anyone in MLS.

Those dying to experience a Champions League night might soon get their wish, should the Union finally take care of #UnfinishedBusiness and lift a domestic cup anytime soon. For the meantime, Open Cup nights like these should suffice.

Aside from monotonous, regional cup draws, few things are actually certain in this tournament. That is the beauty of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.