Philadelphia Union ready for rematch with Sporting Kansas City in U.S. Open Cup

Posted: July 11, 2012

HE HAS SEEN the video in its entirety about four times.

And interim Union manager John Hackworth knows defeating Sporting Kansas City in Wednesday night's U.S. Open Cup semifinal at PPL Park will not be the kind of walkover that their last meeting — a 4-0 Union rout — turned out to be.

For all the "WE WANT THE CUP" chants and promotions that have transpired since the Union qualified for its first Open Cup semifinal in club history, Hackworth may be one of the few people keeping a level head. He knows that last month's blowout does not provide an accurate representation of how dangerous Sporting can be.

"I just recently went back and looked at that game for the fourth time, and it's not a 4-0 game," Hackworth said during his weekly news conference at PPL Park. "They were really good in that game. There's a lot of moments in that game where they could've gotten back into it right away. Fortunately for us, we did an excellent job of winning some important battles in that game. But I think we were fortunate, but I think we won by a score line that doesn't reflect how challenging that game was and just how good Kansas City played in it."

A win Wednesday night would have massive implications for both teams, but especially for Kansas City, which won the right to host the final against the winner of the other semifinal, between the Seattle Sounders and Chivas USA.

If the Union wins, it would host the final only if Chivas upsets the three-time defending open Cup champion Sounders. Otherwise, a Seattle win would mean a trip to the Pacific Northwest to take on a club seeking a record fourth straight championship.

The Union also is out to become the first Philadelphia-area club to win the tournament since the Ukranian Nationals of Philadelphia won in 1966. Led by Philly greats Walter Bahr, a former Temple and Penn State coach, and Walt Chyzowych, a former Temple star player and coach for then-Philadelphia Textile, the Nationals were the last team from Pennsylvania to win the Cup. They triumped four times in the '60s, including 1960, 1961 and 1963.

"This means more than I can say for both me and my teammates," Union midfielder Freddy Adu said. "Bringing a trophy back to Philadelphia would be an honor — not to mention that this tournament really has been what has turned our season around. We all want to see it through."

Tactically, the last time out, the Union pressed Kansas City early, and it paid off fast. In just the first minute of the game, forward Jack McInerney scored the first goal. The Union's defense also delivered a strong performance, keeping Sporting's chief attacking threats — C.J Sapong, Teal Bunbury, Kei Kamara and Graham Zusi — quiet.

The stakes Wednesday are higher, and the Union — starting with Hackworth — is well aware.

"Knowing now that they have to come back here, they are going to be super-motivated," Hackworth said. "We'll have to deal with that. They have also won the right to host the final — I'm sure their ownership and front office has passed along that message to those players and coaching staff. But guess what? They have to come play at PPL Park tomorrow night, and that to me gives us a huge advantage. We feed off the energy in this stadium, and it's something that, as a staff and as a team, we take great pride in."

Contact Kerith Gabriel at gabrielk@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @sprtswtr.


AGENDA

What: U.S. Open Cup semifinal

Who: Sporting Kansas City at Union

When: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.

TV/Radio: None

Tickets/Parking: Tickets start at $25; parking is free.

INJURY REPORT (as of July 6)

Out for Union: Chandler Hoffman, FW (left big toe fracture); Krystian Witkowski, FW (concussion symptoms)

Doubtful: Bakary Soumare, D (right knee meniscus recovery)

Out for Sporting Kansas City: Cyprian Hedrick, D (left fibula fracture); Jon Kempin, GK (right ankle fracture); Lawrence Olum, D (left groin strain)

Probable: Bobby Convey, FW (left calf strain); Michael Thomas, MF (right ankle sprain)

— Kerith Gabriel

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