Philadelphia Union knock Harrisburg City Islanders out of US Open Cup with late winner
Roland Alberg and Walter Restrepo celebrate after advancing in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. (Photo Courtesy of Derek Hamilton/USA Today)

The Philadelphia Union conceded a late equalizer but were saved by a Roland Alberg free kick wonder strike in second half stoppage time to win 3-2 over Harrisburg City Islanders in Round Four of the Lamar Hunt United States Open Cup.

Jim Curtin rotates his squad for US Open Cup matchup

Philadelphia Union Head Coach Jim Curtin opted to rotate his squad heavily for the match as players such as Ilsinho, Alberg, Walter Restrepo and Fabian Herbers got the start Wednesday night.

Despite the new lineup, Philadelphia kept playing the way they left off before Copa America break. Not even five minutes into the match, Philadelphia were up 1-0. In the third minute, City Islanders goalkeeper Nick Noble poorly parried away a deflected Vincent Nogueira cross. Noble’s parry landed on top of the six-yard box, where Union winger Walter Restrepo waited and tapped in the easy goal for the 1-0 lead.

Throughout the first half, the Union controlled much of the pace. In the first 45 minutes, the Union completed 87% of their passes and nearly a 100 more passes than Harrisburg. Possession-wise, Philadelphia dominated the City Islanders, 62.6%-37.4%.

Even with the overwhelming statistical advantage, the Union were unable to add to their lead until stoppage time in the first half. In the first minute of stoppage time, Ilsinho intercepted a ball deep in City Islanders territory and found Herbers. Herbers found Alberg on the other side of the box wide open. The former ADO Den Haag midfielder calmly slotted the ball home to double the home team’s lead.

Match narrative changes heavily in last 15 minutes

Throughout much of the second half, the Union looked as if they were in cruise control and on their way to advancing to the next round of the US Open Cup. However, the match’s narrative was thrown for a loop in the last 15 minutes.

In the 79th minute, Harrisburg cut the Union lead in half when Aaron Wheeler and Craig Foster combined for some excellent passing on top of the box. Wheeler fed Foster from about 15 yards out from net and Foster hit the ball into the corner of the net for Harrisburg’s first goal on the night.

Harrisburg’s comeback would suffer a major setback when midfielder Jose Barril slid in from behind on Leo Fernandes, earning him a straight red card. Despite being down a man, Harrisburg would come back down the field in the next three minutes to tie the game up at two. In the first minute of stoppage time, Wheeler again was involved in the buildup, when the former Union striker found a running Bobby Warshaw. Warshaw then unleashed a low shot into the right corner past McCarthy for the equalizer.

With extra-time almost certainly on the horizon, Alberg again would rise up to lead the Union to victory. After referee Sorin Stoica called a controversial foul on top of the box on Harrisburg, Alberg stepped up to the free kick and deftly put it in the top left corner for the 3-2 lead.

Where do the Union head now after winning?

Stoica blew the whistle no more than 30 seconds after as the Union survived and advanced to the next round of the US Open Cup. Philadelphia will find out their next opponent in the competition when US Soccer will announce the draw on Thursday. The next game in the US Open Cup for Philadelphia will be June 29th, but Philadelphia cannot look pas this Saturday when they travel to New York City FC in Major League Soccer action.