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Outnumbered Union rally to advance

Unlikely heroes step up after Sapong is sent off.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

A tired Union starting lineup probably welcomed the 30-minute weather delay they faced 15 minutes into the game. A nice break from the action, the delay gave the team an opportunity to relax and refuel before heading out to finish the first half. Unfortunately for the players, many of whom played their fifth game in two weeks, CJ Sapong received a dubious red card nine minutes after play resumed.

"It's a mistake by the referee, for sure," Curtin said when asked about the red card. "I just think, in soccer now, it's too easy to be kicked out of a game."

Though everyone--including U.S. Open Cup officials that may review the booking--agrees that the red card was harsh, it still left the Union with only 10 men for the remaining 66 minutes.

"When CJ went out, I thought 'F**k, I will have to run a lot this game,'" Cristian Maidana said through a translator. "I thought the team did a good job and we ran a lot to win the game."

Maidana's prediction was correct, but, as he said, the extra running that he and his teammates had to do was crucial to the Union's success on Tuesday night.

DC United capitalized on their advantage just minutes after they had gained it. In the 27th minute, a cross from DC's Miguel Aguilar found a streaking Jairo Arrieta all alone from ten yards out. The Costa Rican striker blasted the ball into the roof of the net as United looked like they were getting ready to run away with it.

The Union's prospects looked grim as they entered the second half, but they soon assuaged fears of a blowout.

In the 51st minute, Ray Gaddis slipped in Eric Ayuk down the right wing. The winger's cross was inch-perfect, teeing up a streaking Andrew Wenger from the penalty spot. By some incredible stroke of bad luck, or, rather, the stroke of bad luck that has persisted for Wenger's entire season, his shot managed to ricochet off both posts before tauntingly bouncing right past him.

Fortunately for the Union, there were more chances and they weren't as easy to screw up. Just a few minutes after Wenger's miss, Cristian Maidana played an over-the-top ball to Sheanon Williams as he stormed up the left channel. All alone, he squared it to Ayuk on the other post for the tap-in.

The goal was a showcase of everything that worked for the Union last night: great roaming playmaking from Maidana, combo play and advanced runs from the full backs, and smart movement on the part of the wingers to put themselves into goalscoring positions. Oddly enough, it seems like these things, all of which have been hallmarks of the sparse success the Union have experienced this season, were amplified by the absence of a true striker.

With ten minutes to spare, the Union found their winner. A Cristian Maidana-Fabinho combo with a large shake put the full back in on goal. The Brazilian sent a murderous shot right past the head of DC goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra, who did not want to die on a humid day in Chester.

"I am so happy because Jim [Curtin] told me to lay hard and, when I have the opportunity, score,'" Fabinho said post-match. "I am so happy to score."

The Union will either host the New York Cosmos or travel to play the New York Red Bulls in the Quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup.