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Philadelphia Union blanks Rochester Rhinos, reaches fourth round of U.S. Open Cup

IT APPEARS the mystique of Peter Nowak is beginning to rub off.

Freddy Adu (right) scored two goals for the Union against Rochester. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)
Freddy Adu (right) scored two goals for the Union against Rochester. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)Read more

IT APPEARS THE mystique of Peter Nowak is beginning to rub off.

In many ways, the Union boss has been an enigma, and the club he oversees is beginning to follow suit.

Coming off a dismal performance in MLS play against lowly Toronto, the Union came out firing on goal and walked away with a 3-0 win Tuesday night at PPL Park against USL Pro League squad Rochester in third-round action of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

Josue Martinez was the catalyst behind the Union attack, scoring the game's first goal in the fifth minute, and, following a 58-minute rain delay, Martinez added an assist on a header by midfielder Freddy Adu in the 29th. Adu added another goal on a penalty kick he buried in the 73rd minute.

The Union will try to exact revenge against MLS conference rival D.C. United in fourth-round play on June 5 at the Maryland Soccer Complex in Boyds, Md. United won, 2-1, in overtime against the Richmond Kickers in the Open Cup.

The Union took United to overtime last year, but lost, 4-2, in a shootout.

"This is something that we see every day in training," assistant John Hackworth, who subbed for Nowak as coach, said of the Union's offensive outburst against Rochester.

"Tonight, it worked from the very first possession we had. I don't know how many passes we strung together, but we literally built from one side of the field to the other, and that is the kind of soccer we want to play.

"The guys were in sync with each other, which built a tremendous amount of confidence."

By all outward appearances, Rochester came in as an inferior club, but given the March Madness-style, winner-take-all format to the Open Cup, a top club can be upset in any match. Just ask defending MLS champion Los Angeles, which lost, 2-1, to the Carolina RailHawks, of the revived North American Soccer League, Tuesday night. But in this match, the Union used crisp ball movement and crashed the net to score its two early tallies.

The Union finally made the opposition's goalie look foolish - for a change.

"Things haven't really gone our way, so it was nice to see the guys come out and perform so well," midfielder Keon Daniel said. "I wouldn't say it's frustrating, but it can be confusing sometimes why we have a hard time putting it all together."

Fans might be confused about where the offense - the rapid ball movement, the shots on goal, the chances that drew oohs and aahs from the 4,175 in attendance - has been for much of this season. The Union showed glimpses of it against Red Bull New York, but the club managed only one shot on goal against Seattle, and, in what can only be explained as a brain cramp, lost, 1-0, to Toronto on Saturday in a match Nowak said his team appeared to take "three steps back" after three positive steps forward.

"We need to be a little more consistent and put in the work for 90 minutes," midfielder Michael Farfan said. "On the field, on the team, we have to stay together and know that we can do the job.

"We have the players in this locker room to do what we did tonight, game in and game out. It's just a matter of being consistent."

Odds and endlines

Former Union players made their mark in other Open Cup matches: Forward Nick Zimmerman was in the lineup for Carolina's 2-1 upset of the Galaxy; forward Chris Agorsor earned a penalty kick for Richmond to level the game against D.C. United; Morgan Langley and JT Noone played in Harrisburg's match against New England, and Noone scored as the City Islanders upset the Revolution, 4-3 . . . Midfielder Roger Torres looks to be back to full speed and to play in the upcoming matches against Reading (June 9) and Harrisburg City (June 12). Torres has missed 6 weeks after rupturing cartilage in his left knee . . . The timeline on the return of goalkeeper Zac MacMath (multiple concussions) is still "hazy," according to the Union training staff.