US Open Cup

Match Report: Philadelphia Union 0-0 (3-1) Rochester Rhinos

Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz

After nearly costing his team the match at the end of regulation, goalkeeper John McCarthy went from possible goat to undeniable hero, saving three consecutive spot kicks as Philadelphia Union beat Rochester Rhinos 3-1 in a penalty kick shoot-out in the fourth round of the US Open Cup.

After 120 minutes of sluggish, scoreless play, McCarthy proved to be the difference against his former club, stopping Vassilios Apostolopoulos, Tony Walls, and Christian Volesky from the spot to send the Union into the next round of the competition.

They will face the winner of Wednesday’s showdown between New York City FC and New York Cosmos.

First Half

Intent on getting out to an early lead, the Union began the fastest, pressing high up the pitch to challenge the defensive strength of the Rhinos backline. And Chaco Maidana found an early gap when he slipped in Eric Ayuk in the 9th minute. Towering left back Thomas Obasi had the angle on the pass, but when he hesitated, Ayuk nipped in and powered a cross through the box, though no one reacted quicker than Grant Van De Casteele, who cleared the danger

Maidana came close minutes later, after Pfeffer was brought down in the build-up, but the Union playmaker could not keep his free kick down, lashing it just over the bar.

The Union’s high pressure again looked on the verge of bearing fruit in the 14th minute when Obasi rolled a soft backpass that was easily picked off by CJ Sapong. Unfortunately for the Union, the striker delayed under the pressure of outrushing goalkeeper, Brandon Miller, and Sapong could only square the ball for Maidana. With the keeper stranded, Maidana pushed his shot beyond Miller, but could not beat the maze of bodies that had swarmed to cover the front of the goal.

With Rochester continuing to commit fouls in dangerous locations, Maidana had plenty of practice with his set piece delivery. In the 19th minute, he landed a dead ball service onto Richie Marquez’s head, but the Rhinos defense did just enough to put off the defender, whose effort flew harmlessly over the bar.

Christian Volesky nearly stole a goal at the other end when he ran in behind Marquez, but McCarthy was wise to the threat and raced off his line to intervene just in time.

The Union nearly hit back straight away when Andrew Wenger skipped past Pat McMahon only to put a little too much mustard on his low cross for Sapong. With just the keeper to beat, Sapong could only prod the ball directly into his body from point blank range.

After controlling the first half hour of the match, the Union began to fall victim to better possession and smarter attacking runs from Rochester. In the 34th minute, McCarthy again saved the day, beating away a low drive after Jonny Mendoza eluded the attentions of Ray Gaddis and slipped in behind the Union backline.

Second Half

After struggling to pick out the right pass in the final third during the first half, Wenger had an opportunity to redeem himself in the 52nd minute. But, after skipping past his mark and racing into the box, Wenger eschewed the simple square pass to either of his onrushing teammates, instead electing to smash a low cross to Maidana’s back foot, where the playmaker was easily corralled by the Rhinos defense.

As in the first half, the Union piled on early pressure, with Maidana whipping a free kick just wide of the far post in the 59th minute.

The Union continued to pin the Rhinos back, with Fabinho getting to the endline on 68 minutes. Despite the quality of his cross, the dominant pairing of Van De Casteele and Julian Ringhof were the first on the scene to snuff out the danger.

In the 72nd minute, the Union took a different approach to their corners when Maidana sent a pass backwards to the trailing Vincent Nogueira. The midfielder sent a powerful drive from long range that Miller did not expect and could not hold. In the ensuing scrum, the Rhino keeper did just enough to stop Sapong at close range before a foul whistled on Marquez ended the Union threat.

Minutes later, Sean Totsch became the first Rochester player to go in the book after clipping Sebastien Le Toux’s ankle from behind. The contact appeared minor, though Le Toux landed very awkwardly and had to be treated on the pitch.

As they had in the first stanza, the Rhinos began to find their feet as the half wore on, and Ringhof nearly grabbed the opener in the 83rd minute. Following a poorly struck Union clearance, the ball fell to the Rhinos defender, who had time to settle with his chest before sending a rasping volley on target. Fortunately for the Union, it was hit just over McCarthy’s head and the keeper reacted quickly to first block the initial shot before recovering to push the spinning ball over the bar.

By the 88th minute, Le Toux could no longer continue, and was replaced by Fred, less than half an hour after he came on.

In the dying seconds of the match, Rochester thought they had the matchwinner when McCarthy came off his line slowly, allowing Mendoza to beat him to the ball and chip beyond him. But with the ball rolling slowly towards the endline, Gaddis had time to race back and slide the ball clear off his endline, though he took a painful — and shockingly not carded — tackle from Volesky for his troubles.

Extra Time

With both sides struggling for energy, extra time descended further into chippy fouls and petulant kick outs from both sides. Brought in to try and provide a spark, Jimmy McLaughlin was the first to bring life to the opening extra time period when he exchanged passes with Sapong, but his shot was too close to Miller and easily gathered.

McLaughlin was again instrumental in playing in Fred, but the Union veteran was unable to dig the ball out of his feet in time to get a shot away.

Volesky had the ball in the net in the 104th minute, but after shoving Gaddis out of the way to latch onto the long service, play was brought back for the foul, and the Rhinos striker received a yellow card for persistent infringement.

Were there to be a goal, the Union looked the side more likely to grab it, though even when the Rhinos made mistakes, the Union failed to capitalize. In the 109th minute, Obasi was again caught in possession in his own half, but Fred could not hold up his run and Pfeffer’s well-weighted entry pass brought about an offside whistle.

With the Union’s last chance of the game, Pfeffer could only blaze over the bar after Sapong got in behind, but chose to lay it back into his path for a shot.

Penalty kicks

Set up in front of the River End, Union captain Maurice Edu made no mistake in dispatching the first penalty of the shootout.

Neither Mendoza nor Nogueira had any trouble either, both sending the keeper the wrong way before powering their respective shots comfortably in the other half of the net.

With a chance to draw his team level, substitute center back Apostolpoulos stutter-stepped up the ball and was well read by McCarthy, who dove to his right, palming away the shot.

But any momentum the Union gained from McCarthy’s first save was quickly dashed when Sapong ballooned his shot badly, leaving the scores at 2-1, in favor of the Union.

Rhinos captain Tony Walls had the next look at goal, but like Apostolopoulos before him, he stutter-stepped to the ball and McCarthy flew to his right for a second consecutive stop at full strength.

After Maidana coolly slotted his penalty, McCarthy completed his hat trick of saves against Volesky, this time getting down well to his left to beat away the low drive and cue the explosive celebrations from his teammates who poured into the box meet him.

The fifth round draw will take place on Thursday, June 18, with games scheduled to be staged June 30 and July 1.

Philadelphia Union
John McCarthy; Fabinho, Richie Marquez, Maurice Edu, Ray Gaddis; Zach Pfeffer, Vincent Nogueira; Andrew Wenger (Jimmy McLaughlin ’79), Cristian Maidana, Eric Ayuk (Sebastien Le Toux ’57) (Fred ’88); CJ Sapong
Unused Subs: Andre Blake, Ethan White, Raymond Lee, Sheanon Williams

Rochester Rhinos
Brandon Miller; Onua Obasi, Pat McMahon, Grant Van De Casteele, Julian Ringhof; Sean Totsch (Asani Samuels ‘105), Mike Garzi (Vassilios Apostolopoulos ’90), Tony Walls, Jonny Mendoza; Christian Volesky, Kenardo Forbes (Alex Dixon ’86)
Unused Subs: Adam Grinwis, Drew Ruggles, Marcos Ugarte, Colin Rolfe

Scoring Summary

Penalty Kicks
Maurice Edu – Goal
Vincent Nogueira – Goal
CJ Sapong – Miss
Chaco Maidana – Goal

Jonny Mendoza – Goal
Vassilios Apostolopoulos – Save
Tony Walls – Save
Christian Volesky – Save

Disciplinary Summary
ROC: Sean Totsch (foul) — 80
ROC: Pat McMahon (foul) – 90+
ROC: Tony Walls (persistent infringement) – 99
ROC: Christian Volesky (persistent infringement) – 104
PHI: Zach Pfeffer (foul) – 105

Philadelphia Union Rochester Rhinos
13 Shots 10
4 Shots on Target 5
 9 Corner Kicks 5
 1 Offsides 3
 18 Fouls 26
1 Yellow Cards 4
0 Red Cards  0


  1. Old Soccer Coach says:

    Brian Sylvestre was cup tied to Carolina Railhawks in the previous round when their starter had been injured, and our substitute keeper did not look like him to my ancient eyes in person. Wasn’t it Blake instead?

    • Yes, it was Blake.

      Lahoud and Sylvestre watched the game with the SoB in the River End. Both were very chill, posing for pictures and chatting with fans.

    • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

      It was Blake. Corrected. My apologies

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        My goodness, it was two o’clock in the morning. You fixed it. That’s what matters.

  2. The Little Fish says:

    I watched to USWNT on my tv while watching The Union stream on my tablet. Wicked delay on the stream for me. Painful! Anybody else have the delay?
    Oh boy….um…A win is a win is a win? Yep. I’ll take it but damn it was ugly. Great effort by the kid. Gutsy.

  3. Andy Muenz says:

    This really showed a LOT about why this Union team isn’t going anywhere this season. They looked good in the midfield and the setup but no one wanted to take a shot. They had multiple times when players were in perfect position to shoot but instead passed it to someone who wasn’t ready because they expected the other player to shoot. They need to learn that passing does not put the ball in the back of the net.
    I also thought it ironic that the two midfielders and the defender all scored their PK’s while the striker was the one who was closer to the river than the goal with his.
    I was sort of hoping Rochester’s fourth PK would have gone in so we could have found out who would have taken the Union’s 5th shot.

  4. Didn’t the format change to a fixed bracket starting with the round of 16 this year? My understanding is that there will be four regionally based groups of four teams and a draw within those groups determines the next opponent. This draw for the round of 16 does not occur until June 18th, so they may not necessarily play the winner of tonight’s nycfc v cosmos game as there will be 2 others (redbulls likely, revs should they win?) that the union could be drawn against.

    • I think it’s from the round of 16 going forward that the bracket is set. Union will probably end up drawing one of the three NY teams left anyways.

  5. So in our last 3 games against teams divisions below us . . . playing our starters . . . all 3 teams have taken us to extra time.
    So the only thing I got out of this game is . . . Onua Obasi is just as good as Andrew Wenger and would cost us $175K less. That’s the kind of guy I would sign on my team for depth.

  6. The commentator on the live stream was right about 1 thing. The Union make way too many dinky passes. I watched Argentina vs Uruguay,USWNT, and the Union. The Union better bring in some quality skilled players and coaching or MLS Philadelphia will die a boring slow agonizing death. I know people are going to say it’s the Open Cup. That’s BS because I saw highlights from other Open Cup games and the Union don’t look like a professional MLS team! Also in my opinion,Jim Curtin is starting to look like nothing more than a user friendly Hackworth.

    Sell this team to a competent and financially competitive ownership!


    • Curtin is a more user friendly Hackworth, and until the ownership group feel compelled to spend actual money, the Union will languish themselves into insolvency. I think if this were a Promotion/Relegation league, owners would have to “pony-up” and pay a decent wage bill to stay competitive, alas this is a pipe-dream that will never happen.

      Going to PKs against the Sounders and winning is a statement, but getting to PKs against the Rhinos is just embarrassing. The Union won, but this only showed how far this team actually is from being a quality club. There needs to be serious investment and a serious attempt to sign a HIGHLY Qualified Manager along with Quality Legit backroom staff and Sporting Director. Too many “experiments” and “cheap bandages” have been applied to this Open Wound…….At least next season Premier League Fixtures came out today

  7. Andy Muenz says:

    Just read that the Union did a little better than Seattle (who admittedly had a much tougher draw against Portland). In addition to losing 3-1 in Seattle finished the game with only 7 players! Martins got hurt while 3 other Sounders were red carded including Dempsey who decided to grab the ref’s notebook and rip it up!

  8. I do not want to see John McCarthy in that goal again.
    Glad he managed to come up big on the PKs, but we bloody well should have lost that game 2-0 or 3-0 due to some of the decisions he made.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      While I thoroughly agree that those decisions you cite were poor, he made some excellent saves to preserve the tie earlier. He’s a credible third keeper and has the mental make-up. Blake continues to intrigue me with the snippets we’ve seen. Sylvestre is currently the best on form.

      • +1 on Blake and Sylvestre.
        Respectfully submit that while he had his very positive moments last night, I just don’t think McCarthy can get away with those mistakes again upper half MLS players, and that’s what has to be considered.

  9. Someday when I’m on my death bed, I’ll wish that I had the time that I spent at this match back. Brutal to watch and the traffic afterwards was even worse.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      I agree that the game was pretty brutal but where was the traffic bad? For us it took less time to get home from the game than it does for me to get home after work with normal weekday traffic (I park in Lot C every day for work).

      • Heading north on 95 from 322, there was a stalled vehicle in the fast lane and the on-ramp to 476 was closed for construction. They squeezed three lanes down to one. You were able to fly on 95 once you got past this, but it took a good 15-20 min to get through it. Painfully slow.

      • You were lucky at 15-20, I guess. We stayed a bit late – Thanks, John McCarthy, for signing an autograph for my daughter! – and when we finally left the stadium it was about 10:30 or so. At 11:04 I sent my wife a text saying we were stuck in traffic on 95 – and at that point we still didn’t know we were stuck because the ramp to the Blue Route was closed. We got home (lower Bucks) a little before midnight.

      • Pro tip, stay on 291 from the stadium north to Boeing, then join 95 South to 476. Worth remembering for the Seattle game next week.

      • John Ling says:

        Thanks – that’s how I used to go before the ramp opened. I actually don’t even need the Blue Route – 95 all the way up to Bucks. If this construction job is going to continue to make a mess of 95 North, I will definitely be going up to Boeing…

  10. Andy Muenz says:

    Forgot to mention earlier – I did see Sugarman walk by on field level during the second half last night. So he made it to at least one game this year…

  11. Did Ayuk take a knock? He came out awfully early, and he seemed to have a small limp after the game. But I’m not sure if that “small limp” is his normal gait or not.
    If he didn’t… Why the hell was Ayuk removed instead of Wenger? Gah!

  12. Same Wenger last night. Passes when he should have shot the ball and shots it when he should have passed it. We need an upgrade on our wings. Both Le Toux and Wenger are not getting it done and (I think) are the main reason our offense looks so poor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *