USOC preview: Union host SKC with final place on the line

PHILADELPHIA UNION vs SPORTING KANSAS CITY
PPL PARK, Chester. Pa.
July 11, 2012 (US Open Cup Semifinal)
7:30 pm ET (Live Stream – PHI/Live Stream - SKC)

Philadelphia are playing for an opportunity to lift their first trophy. Sporting Kansas City want the same, plus a little revenge.

On Wednesday night at PPL Park (7:30 pm ET, Live Streams – SKC/PHI), the two teams will meet in the first of two US Open Cup semifinals for a place in August’s final. Philadelphia won the last time the two teams met in Chester, Pa., running out to a 4-0 victory, something that will certainly add more fire to an already high-stakes match.

But on Wednesday night, there is more on the line than just points. Can Sporting exact revenge for that defeat or will Philly roll onto the final under the guidance of interim coach John Hackworth?

Philadelphia Union

With the entire organization and their fans buzzing with anticipation, the Union continue the quest for their first trophy Wednesday at PPL Park.

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Interestingly enough, Philadelphia walloped Sporting KC, 4-0, in league play two weeks ago. But for coach John Hackworth & Co., that certainly doesn’t mean they have an advantage over their visitors, who currently sit in first place in the Eastern Conference and will be looking for a little dose of PPL Park revenge.

“I just recently went back and looked at that game again against KC, for the fourth time, and it was not a 4-0 game,” Hackworth said. “They were really good in that game. There were a lot of moments in that game where they could have gotten back into it right away. Fortunately for us, we did an excellent job not to give up a goal.”

On top of the revenge factor, Hackworth also noted that Sporting Kansas City will likely be motivated by the fact that, with a win, they will definitely host the US Open Cup final. The Union, meanwhile, will only host the finals if Chivas USA beat Seattle in the other USOC semifinal matchup.

“I’m sure that message has been passed along to their players and staff,” Hackworth said. “But guess what? They’re coming to play at PPL Park [Wednesday] night and that, to me, gives us a huge advantage because we feel a different energy in this stadium. And it’s something we take great pride in.”

The Union also have a little bit of momentum – and confidence – working in their favor as they come into the game fresh off back-to-back league wins over the Galaxy and Toronto.

“We understand it’s a massive privilege to get to the semifinal,” Hackworth said. “But we’re not satisfied with that. We want to make it to the final. We want to win the whole thing.”

Sporting Kansas City

No matter what happened the last time Sporting Kansas City played the Philadelphia Union, they swear Wednesday’s US Open Cup semifinal is not a revenge game.

Still, Sporting definitely have a score to settle with the Union – a 4-0 score, to be exact. That was the final tally in the thumping the Union administered, also at their home ground, in a league match on June 23.

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“That game against Philadelphia was our worst game – and no, we did not forget about it,” center back Aurelien Collin said on Monday during the team’s weekly news conference. “We had a very bad game. No excuses. Now we have to go there and be focused enough to not make the same mistakes.”

Still, despite Sporting’s focused, forward-looking approach, manager Peter Vermes understands that his players are looking for a little redemption – and yes, a little payback – in Kansas City’s first semifinal since the then-Wizards won the Open Cup in 2004.

“Nobody likes to get beat,” he said. “You’d always like another shot at that team.”

Sporting, who haven’t won silverware since that 2004 Cup, got an extra shot of motivation last week when US Soccer announced that they would host the Cup final if they get past the Union.

“It’s a massive game – a big semifinal and a chance to win a trophy,” defender Matt Besler said after the Dynamo game. “But we aren’t looking past the first step, and that’s Philadelphia. Obviously they took it to us a couple weeks ago and we want that revenge. We want to bring this club some silverware, and Wednesday is a great time to start.”