CHESTER, Pa. – Philadelphia Union rookie Antoine Hoppenot got to know the players on the Harrisburg City Islanders when he was loaned there for a couple of games earlier in the season.
Now, with the City Islanders set to take on the Union in an intriguing US Open Cup matchup between affiliate clubs Tuesday at PPL Park (7:30 pm ET, streamed live on philadelphiaunion.com), Hoppenot (above) has been getting texts and tweets from some of those players.
“There’s been a little, you know, trash talk going on,” Hoppenot told MLSsoccer.com. “But it’s been great. I’m really excited. They really want to come here and just beat us. Their guys are ready. But no one is taking this game lightly. No one thinks it’s going to be an easy game. We’re all ready to go.”
Due to a friendly and beneficial partnership between the two clubs, Hoppenot is one of a few Union players who have suited up for Harrisburg, just as the City Islanders have a few players who previously played for the Union.
But for 90 minutes Tuesday, all friendships will be put on hold.
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“We’re not looking at it like it’s one of our affiliates coming in,” Union left back Gabriel Farfan said. “We’re looking at it like it’s just another opponent in the quarterfinals. Obviously our gameplan is to get to the semis and we’ll need to do everything we can to get there.”
The Union don’t need to look very hard to understand just how challenging Tuesday’s USOC quarterfinal matchup will be. Two weeks ago, the Union dropped a 3-2 decision to Harrisburg in the annual friendly between the two clubs.
But Philly didn’t play their full team that night and have since gained plenty of confidence after their 4-0 blitzing of Sporting Kansas City on Saturday.
“It’s up to us to do what we did well in this game to try to play better against Harrisburg than we did the last time at their place,” Union midfielder Brian Carroll said following the victory over SKC. “But it’s going to be a tough game.”
Other MLS teams can certainly attest to how tough Harrisburg can be.
In the third round of the US Open Cup, the City Islanders stunned the New England Revolution by scoring a staggering three goals in the final 10 minutes of the second extra session and then winning in penalty kicks. And the USL-Pro side followed that up by beating the Red Bulls in overtime to book their place in the quarterfinals.
Can they keep their magical run going into the next round?
“I’m really happy for them but they’re not going to beat a third MLS team,” Hoppenot said with a grin. “Two’s good enough for them.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.