CHESTER, Pa. -- By nature, the US Open Cup doesnt receive the high respect of the MLS season or playoffs, despite its standing as the longest running tournament in the nation.
But to the Union, the semifinal game against Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday at PPL Park, will go down as one of the most important contests in the clubs three-year history.
Wednesday is a big day for us, I heard the Union supporter group Sons of Ben chanting, 'We want the Cup.' And we all want the Cup. Its a big, big game, said coach John Hackworth.
To be in position to play in a final in our third year of existence, to have a chance at some hardware to put a banner in this building, all of those things are important. For our club, we honor the Open Cup and understand its a privilege to reach the semifinals. But were not satisfied with that.
Although the Union have cruised through the tournament with a 3-0 win over the Rochester Rhinos, 2-1 win over DC United and explosive 5-2 win over the Harrisburg City Islanders, taking on Sporting KC is a much different animal.
On June 23, the Union embarrassed Eastern Conference-leading Sporting KC, 4-0, at PPL Park in MLS play -- a result that will undoubtedly have the Unions opposition seeking to rectify itself.
Nobody wants to get beat, 4-0, said Union defender Sheanon Williams. But its a whole different game. We have to throw out that game, this will be completely different, I expect them to be completely different. We have to play the way weve been playing and play our game.
Hackworth noted that after reviewed the game time for a fourth time, the lopsided score didnt accurately describe the difficulty the Union faced.
We want to make the final, said Hackworth. KC is a fantastic team and one of the best in the league for sure. We know it will be incredibly hard to duplicate the result we had before, we dont expect that to happen. Itll be a good soccer game, two teams that are very motivated. We expect it to be fast and physical, you have two teams that are playing well right now.
That wasnt a 4-0 game.
The Unions Open Cup success has much to do with their invigorated offense, which has put out 10 goals in three tournament games. However, the attack has been well-rounded and spread out. Leading the way has been Freddy Adu with three goals, followed by Lionard Pajoy with two. Josue Martinez, Antoine Hoppenot, Brian Carroll, Jack McInerney and Gabriel Gomez each have one.
All year weve been capable of scoring goals, they are just falling for us now, said Williams. Were going to continue to ride it. Jack coming in has been a big part of that, hes been extremely dangerous. Antoine gets at least one chance a game. If he can keep scoring, well be in good shape, too.
Since losing to the Union, Sporting KC has struggled, going 1-1-1. The Eastern Conference leaders, with a 10-5-3 record, last played on July 7 -- a 0-0 draw against the Houston Dynamo.
En route to its matchup with the Union, Sporting KC took down Orlando City, 3-2, the Colorado Rapids, 2-0 and Dayton Dutch Lions, 3-0. Led by Soony Saad and CJ Sapongs two goals each, Sporting KCs attack is versatile and has been impressive throughout the tournament.
Knowing now they are coming back here, they will be super motivated and we have to deal with that, said Hackworth. But they have to come play at PPL Park, and that, to me, gives us a huge advantage. We feel a different energy in this stadium. We take great pride in it. Were looking to get a result at home.
Williams agreed that home-field advantage gives the Union an edge.
Its a quick turnaround so everyone will rest up and get ready for that game, said Williams. Its a huge game for us and for them. Luckily, well be at home, so hopefully well have a good showing and work hard. If we do the things were capable of doing, well have a good performance.
E-mail Ryan Bright at RyanBright13@gmail.com