It was never certain, and it was definitely close, but the New England Revolution secured passage to the semi-finals of the US Open Cup on Wednesday night with a penalty-kick victory over the Philadelphia Union. After 120 minutes of 1-1 ball, the two clubs lined up for spot kicks, and it was Brad Knighton's two saves that proved the difference.
The evening's game was played before a packed house at Harvard University's Jordan Field, a stadium within the confines of the City of Boston that usually plays host to the Harvard Crimson and the Boston Breakers.
The Revs' only goal came in the 44th minute after a first half that was back-and-forth, but largely sloppy, and it was a Philadelphia defensive error that really made it happen. Kei Kamara earned a free kick about 25 yards out, and with the Union seemingly asleep, the dead ball was taken quickly with a simple floor pass out left to Je-Vaughn Watson, and the Jamaican utility player was all alone, beating Andre Blake to the far post.
Philly certainly had dangerous moments throughout. Particularly from the 60th to the 65th minute, the Union put forth a barrage on the Revolution defense with Ilsinho at the helm, but they were unable to force meaningful saves or get the equalizer they so obviously desired.
That changed with the inclusion of Fabian Herbers in the 66th minute. The young German went lateral and scissor-kicked a half-volley into the back of the net in the 90th minute, just as the fourth official raised his board for added time. New England will be extremely disappointed in their inability to hodl the lead, and on that particular play, it was more of a group breakdown than any one individual mistake.
That said, the best player on the pitch was probably Union goalkeeper Andre Blake. The young Jamaican international made acrobatic, mind-bending saves on Kei Kamara in the 69th and 71st minute for the highlight reel, but it was his quickness, positioning, and command of the box that kept the Revs from opening their lead to two or three goals, and from later reclaiming that lead.
Cue penalty kicks. Lee Nguyen opened the sequence by scoring his, and Knighton came up huge, diving to his left to deny Sebastien Le Toux. Chris Tierney put his effort past Blake, and the Ilsinho put the Union on the board with a quality effort. Scott Caldwell was next for the Revs, and he missed wide to level things, but Knighton came up big yet again, denying C.J. Sapong. Jose Goncalves finished past Blake despite the Jamaican keeper guessing the right way, and when Herbers made his, it all came down to Je-Vaughn Watson.
Already the Revs' probable man of the match, Watson stutter-stepped and coolly finished past his international teammate to give the Revolution a 4-2 penalty win.
New England is back in action on Saturday at home against Chicago.