“Union reject! Union reject!”
Revolution goalie Brad Knighton could hear the jeers, coming from a peskily placed group of fans of his former team, the Philadelphia Union.
He blocked them out as he steadied himself for penalty kicks Wednesday night in the quarterfinals of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, and saved two key shots as the Revolution won, 4-2, on extra kicks after tying the Union, 1-1, in regulation and extra time.
“There’s no pressure on me,” Knighton said. “All the pressure is on them and if I can save one or two, like I said, I’ve done my job.”
Besides, Knighton thought he might have luck on his side.
“I knew it was going to be a good day today,” he said. “I woke up and went for a walk and ended up finding Pikachu, so I knew it was going to be a good night and ultimately it was.”
The win sends the Revolution to the semifinals, where they will face the Chicago Fire (MLS) on Aug. 10.
The Revolution avenged their last quarterfinal appearance in the US Open Cup, a 2-0 loss to the Union in 2014.
The sky above was jet black as the players walked, one by one, up to the penalty kicking spot. Earlier it had seemed as if it would be a shorter night.
The halftime whistle was just about to blow when Je-Vaughn Watson’s goal put the Revolution on top, 1-0, moments after the big red sun slipped below the trees on the western side of Harvard’s Jordan Field.
Watson scored after Kei Kamara, inserted into the starting lineup after Femi Hollinger-Janzen pulled his groin in warm-ups, drew a free kick from 35 yards out.
Watson had noticed on a previous set piece that the Union players weren’t marking their men quickly enough, so he told Kamara to take it quickly.
Kamara kicked it short to Watson, who had space in the box and shot it low past Union goalkeeper Andre Blake, before the other side could fully react.
“He just put it in the right spot and I aimed for the far post and it went in,” Watson said.
Watson’s goal looked to be enough as the clock ticked toward 90 minutes.
With just seconds left in regulation, Sebastien Le Toux got a ball on the right side, facing out. He settled it, turned, and hit it into the middle where Fabian Herbers trapped it off his chest.
The ball bounced off the ground and Herbers swung his leg around at waist height, as if he were kicking the ball off a tee. He scored, ending Knighton’s shutout bid and starting the “Union reject” chant.
“Being in Philly, they’re loyal fans,” Knighton said. “They’re great if they’re on your side but they’re some of the meanest fans, too, in the country so you take it with a grain of salt.”
Revolution coach Jay Heaps called it a “gut punch” but thought his team responded well.
“I think we were able to reset and, I’ve got to be honest with you, we were much better in the overtime than we were the last probably 20 minutes of the game,” Heaps said.
It was Watson, again, who put the Revolution ahead for good. Lee Nguyen, Chris Tierney, and Jose Goncalves had all netted their penalty kicks, while Ilsinho and Herbers had scored for Philadelphia.
The coaching staff had asked him if he wanted to take the final kick, or if the moment would be too nerve-racking. Watson said he was up to the challenge and, when he stepped up, he kicked the decider.
“I don’t care, I like pressure,” Watson said. “That’s me, I just go up there and do whatever they say I should do. If they say I should go in the goal, that’s just pressure, that’s just me, I always want to perform.”