June 26, 2012
By Vince DiGregorio
With win over Islanders, Union look for hardware
Philly Soccer News Contributor
CHESTER, PA – An intrastate rivalry with hardware at stake. A team that had already knocked out two MLS teams to get here, and a team that had already beaten them in an exhibition game two weeks ago.
|Gabriel Gomez scored the Union's fifth goal in his first appearance since being injured in May.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
That was what the Philadelphia Union were dealing with at PPL Park Tuesday night, and they rose to the challenge in style. Led by a pair of Lionard Pajoy goals, the Union rolled to a 5-2 win over the Harrisburg City Islanders to advance to the semifinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
"First of all, I'd like to congratulate coach Bill Becher and the Harrisburg City Islanders," Union coach John Hackworth said. "It's a tribute to them and their organization to get to this point in this prestigious tournament.
"That was a tough game. A lot tougher than a 5-2 (scoreline)."
With the win, Philadelphia will host fellow MLS member Sporting Kansas City – 3-0 winners over the Dayton Dutch Lions of the USL -- on July 11.
"The players know (the U.S. Open Cup) is a big deal," Hackworth added. "To play a semifinal here is important to us. That gives us the advantage for sure, no matter who our opponent is."
The small but spirited crowd of 4,313 saw Harrisburg fight back from a three-goal deficit and throw a scare into Philadelphia with two goals in a three- minute span, from Brian Ombiji in the 51st and former Union player Morgan Langley in the 54th.
Ombiji was alone in front to chip a floater over Union keeper Zac MacMath, and his control ignited the Islanders. Langley followed with a left-footed shot into the left corner of the net and celebrated wildly.
"In the second half, they came out super motivated and threw everything forward," Hackworth said. "In the first eight minutes, they got two back and deservedly so."
But Pajoy restored order for the Union by scoring on a penalty kick in the 69th minute to make it a 4-2 game. The penalty was awarded when Union forward Antoine Hoppenot was knocked to the ground by Dustin Bixler inside the box.
"The team is pretty confident," Pajoy said through an interpreter. "The team isn't relying on one person. Hopefully, the offense can continue its ways."
Gabriel Gomez chipped another score over Harrisburg goalkeeper Nick Noble in the 81st to settle matters. Gomez was making his first appearance since May 19, when he was hurt in Philly’s 1-1 draw with FC Dallas.
"We fell behind early and caused ourselves our own problems," Becher said. "But we did battle back in the second half.
"The game was interesting for a while. What's impressive about this team is they never die. We found a way to get back in the game. Just didn't quite have enough left in the tank."
The contest appeared over in the first half hour as the Union took a 3-0 lead.
Freddy Adu converted a penalty in the sixth minute following a handball. Jack McInerney took advantage of a giveaway to double the margin in the ninth minute by slotting one low past Noble.
Pajoy, despite being surrounded by three players, then converted a pass from Gabriel Farfan in the 29th to give Philadelphia a seemingly insurmountable lead 3-0 at the half.
"When we came into the locker room up 3-0, the first thing Hack said was, they were down 3-0 to New England with way less time," McInerney said. "We had to go out and realize they had the power to come back."
The Islanders defeated the Union two weeks ago, 3-2, in a friendly at Harrisburg. In four all-time meetings between the squads, Philadelphia holds a 2-1-1 advantage. However, this was the first encounter with something at stake.