CHESTER, Pa. – After shocking the Revolution and the Red Bulls in dramatic fashion to earn a US Open Cup quarterfinal date with the Union, the Harrisburg City Islanders discovered a little more magic Tuesday night at PPL Park.
Just not enough to keep their tournament run alive.
Despite ripping off two goals in the span of two minutes to cut into Philadelphia’s early three-goal lead, the City Islanders were overmatched for most of the night, dropping a 5-2 decision to the suddenly surging Union in a matchup between affiliate clubs.
The Union – who have now scored nine goals in their past two matches, after scoring just eight through their first 12 league matches – move on to face either Sporting Kansas City or the Dayton Dutch Lions at PPL Park.
The home team booked their place in the semifinals, thanks in large part to a dominating first-half performance and some early defensive miscues from a Harrisburg side that had just returned from grueling back-to-back games in Orlando and Charleston.
Freddy Adu opened up the scoring in the sixth minute with a penalty-kick goal after Harrisburg’s Stephen Basso got his hand on a Lionard Pajoy cross in the box. Basso was also hurt on the play, leaving the game with Union 2012 supplemental draft pick Tom Brandt coming on in his place.
Three minutes later, the USL-Pro visitors made another terrible defensive mistake when Dustin Bixler’s header fell in the path of a streaking Jack McInerney, whose easy finish put the Union up by a pair of goals.
In the 29th minute, Philly padded their lead as Pajoy made three sharp touches in the box and then uncorked another simple finish after receiving a well-placed cross from left back Gabriel Farfan.
But even after looking completely overwhelmed in the first half, Harrisburg stormed back to make sure the game wasn’t a blowout.
In the 52nd and 54th minutes, Brian Ombiji and Morgan Langley scored back-to-back goals, with forward Yann Ekra assisting on both.
Langley, who played for Philly at the end of the 2011 season, was one of three ex-Union players on the field for Tuesday’s game. The others were Brandt and J.T. Noone, who was on the Union roster throughout their expansion season in 2010.
But the Union served up a convincing response to their ex-mates when second-half sub Antoine Hoppenot drew a penalty kick and Pajoy netted the ensuing PK. It was the second straight game in which Hoppenot was fouled in the box and Pajoy provided the finish. The red-hot rookie also scored the game-winner against D.C. United in the Union’s last US Open Cup win.
Another second-half substitute, Gabriel Gómez, completed the scoring with an 81st-minute chip over Harrisburg goalkeeper Nick Noble. Gomez was making his first appearance since May 19, when he was hurt in Philly’s 1-1 draw with FC Dallas.
Before continuing their US Open Cup run, the Union take on Houston on Saturday and the LA Galaxy on July 4 in a pair of upcoming road contests.
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.