Playing in their first U.S. Open Cup match since 2019, the Philadelphia Union fell 2-1 to Orlando City SC Tuesday night in a Round of 32 match. Despite a late-game push to come back, the Union fell in what has historically been one of their better competitions.
Philadelphia approached the game with a heavily rotated squad coming off the long trip to Los Angeles with only three regular starters in the first XI. As usual, the Union allowed their opponent to dominate possession. While Orlando took six first-half shots to the Union’s three, both team only had one on goal.
Orlando had decent chances throughout the half, most notably Junior Urso’s shot that was saved by a quick reaction from Matt Freese just into stoppage time. Just one minute later, Urso missed a point-blank shot in front of the net that would have given the home side a huge goal just before the half.
Philadelphia started the second half with a substitution, as they removed Jack Elliott for Jakob Glesnes.
Glesnes’ substitution seemed to pay off early, as he stopped a shot inside the box in the 54th minute, but Ercan Kara slammed the rebound past Freese for a 1-0 lead. Orlando doubled their lead soon after, as Andres Perea placed a rocket on the left side of the net in the 57th minute.
With his team down 2-0 and producing little on the attack, Union head coach Jim Curtin sent on a pair of offensive subs, Julian Carranza and Sergio Santos, to turn the tide back in his favor. It took some time for Curtin to see the benefits; the Union’s best attempt on net came from a Paxten Aaronson shot from a tight angle from the right side of the box.
The Union finally scored in the 76th minute as Stuart Findlay placed a nice ball into the net from a recycled set piece. The offense seemed to improve after the goal and substitutions of Jose Martinez and Kai Wagner, with good attempts from a tiki-taka counter and a near-miss of the ball from Carranza a few minutes later.
Both teams pressed forward for the duration of the match, and with less than two minutes left in stoppage time, Orlando looked to seal the deal as Ruan took off alone down the field. It took an incredible save from Freese off Ruan’s feet to stop the attack and keep Philadelphia alive.
However, neither Findlay’s goal, Freese’s save, nor Wagner’s header that reached the goal line on the final play of the match saved the Union. Orlando earned a win at home and advanced in the competition, while Philadelphia returned home with a rare defeat.
The one and done exit is the second straight for the Union after falling 2-1 after extra time at D.C. United in 2019. The Open Cup was canceled in 2020 and 2021. Prior to 2019, the Union won at least one Open Cup match seven straight years, advancing to three finals and to at least the quarterfinals in all but two of those years.
The Union return to league play on Saturday when they welcome the New York Red Bulls to Subaru Park.