The Philadelphia Union's quest for a third-straight Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final appearance (or loss, depending on how optimistic you're feeling) began tonight. Goals from Walter Restrepo and Roland Alberg ensured victory over City Islanders FC and entry into the next round of the Open Cup.
But of course it wasn't that easy; after all, this is the Open Cup. Though the Union carried a 2-0 lead to the 79th minute, they found themselves tied with the Islanders by stoppage time. With extra time looming, Alberg scored a gorgeous free-kick goal to salvage the win.
Deep into stoppage time, Sebastien Le Toux drew a questionable foul just outside of the box. Roland Alberg, who had scored earlier in the game, stepped up to save his side from playing another half-hour.
Nick Noble wasn't saving that one, even if he were properly positioned.
Harrisburg's two goals weren't nearly as pretty, but I guess we still have to talk about them.
Craig Foster started the rally in the 79th minute, when his deflected strike rolled past a stunned John McCarthy. The 20-yard effort took a bounce off Ken Tribbett, sending it to the far post, though it took its time to get there.
Bobby Warshaw equalized in second-half stoppage time. His shot was similarly unglamorous, as he slid in to send it to the far post.
Though the final score was close, the game largely was not. The Union were in control for the entire match, which should be expected against a USL side. That confidence and dominance may have been a byproduct of the Union's early goal, as the home side got onto the board thanks to an unfamiliar player.
Three minutes into his competitive debut for the Union, Walter Restrepo gave his side the lead. The winger cleaned up after the Islanders' 'keeper spilled the ball right into his path. Noble was attempting to punch clear a deflected cross from Vincent Nogueira, but his attempt was not very successful, as Restrepo didn't even have to break stride to score his first goal for his new club.
The Union continued to threaten as the half went on, thanks in large part to the play of the rotated front four. Restrepo, Alberg, Ilsinho, and Herbers combined well in and around the box throughout the match. Three of the four linked up on the Union's second goal, which came just before halftime.
After picking the pocket of a City Islanders defender in his own half, Ilsinho laid the ball off to Fabian Herbers. Herbers made his way into the box before playing the ball square to Roland Alberg, who was all alone on the opposite side of the box. With no one around, Alberg slid the ball past an outrushing Nick Noble.
The Union showcased their depth on Wednesday night, but most importantly, they advanced. At this stage of the tournament, that's really all that matters.