CHESTER, Pa. – There was nobody more conflicted during the second round of the US Open Cup than Brendan Burke.
As a Philadelphia Union assistant coach and Reading United AC head coach, Burke was uniquely familiar with both teams in Tuesday night’s matchup between Union affiliates Reading and the Harrisburg City Islanders.
PDL side Reading United are led by five Union academy players, while the City Islanders of the USL PRO enjoy the services of a handful of Union players on loan, including former Homegrown signings Jimmy McLaughlin and Cristhian Hernandez.
“I couldn’t really lose last night,” Burke told MLSsoccer.com.
But one of the teams had to lose. And in a surprising twist, it was the professional side from Harrisburg that dropped a 1-0 decision to their amateur hosts, marking the first time in club history Reading have advanced to the third round of the US Open Cup.
“It was a relief on my part personally, because we’ve been in that position a couple of times and probably should have won Open Cup games over the past few years,” Burke said. “It’s kind of good to crack the second round and get into the third round and get an MLS opponent. For the boys, some of them being their first Open Cup, they were just ecstatic after the game.”
Reading now move into the next round to play the New York Red Bulls, a team Burke knows well as a member of the Union staff. And while he’s realistic that his team made up mostly of college players has “reached the limit of expectations,” he also called this Reading group “the deepest we’ve had in terms of talent.”
“I really have this feeling like we’re just getting going,” said Burke, who’s coached at Reading since 2008. “Not just in terms of this tournament, but just in terms of the way the entire club is taking shape right now.”
Burke, who makes the hour-plus drive from Chester to Reading most days, admitted he would have preferred that his team’s big win didn’t come at the expense of another Union affiliate, noting the early matchup was something that “neither one of us wanted.”
But when it comes to the Union players currently on loan at Harrisburg, he also said that it’s more important to look at the big picture.
“Any player at that level is going to be upset with any loss,” Burke said. “But I think the loan structure has been fantastic because they’re getting meaningful minutes. And you can’t replicate meaningful minutes.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.