With Wednesday’s action wrapping up, the MLS US Open Cup semifinals decided that Philadelphia Union and Houston Dynamo will be the two finalists contesting for the trophy. While the Union dominated the Fire in their semifinal, Dynamo suffered a more complicated fate but was able to come away with a win to face the Philadelphians in September.
Philadelphia Union – Chicago Fire
In Chester, PA, Talen Energy Stadium roared three times when the Union faced the Chicago Fire after a 3-0 result secured a trip to the Final. However, the Fire proved to be a difficult opponent as their attacking efforts frequently posed near-goal chances. The first half definitely belonged to them, as they frequently found themselves threatening Andre Blake’s net.
In the 11th minute, a combination by Raheem Edwards and Bastian Schweinsteiger sent the ball close to the goal, but Edwards’ shot was way off the target. The 37th minute saw Schweinsteiger attempt a bicycle kick, but Blake was careful to not allow on in the first half. It was the German midfielder again that attempted a powerful shot in the 46th, but Blake was there once again to stop his dangerous effort.
The second half told a different story, as Philadelphia started to recollect. In the 53rd they got very close to scoring from a foul shot, while in the 59th, a 1-2 passing combination led to Alejandro Bedoya giving a beautiful assist to Cory Burke who took advantage of the open chance he had. The stadium was on its feet once more in the 77th minute, when Cory Burke tore the defense apart to score with a powerful strike. Now, Chicago had started to show signs of exhaustion, fact that the Union saw as an opportunity for a third goal. Indeed, in the 86th, Fabrice-Jean Picault served a pass from the left to C.J. Sapong, whose simple touch with his left foot was able to seal the victory and send the Fire home.
Houston Dynamo – LAFC
In Houston, the Dynamo hosted a difficult matchup against the Los Angeles Football Club. Even though the Californians were able to take over in the sixth minute with Diego Rossi’s goal, Houston proved to be the dominating force of the game, with three consecutive goals. In the 12th, it was Andrew Wenger who balanced the scoreboard, while Mauro Manotas controlled the ball from the right in the 25th to change the dynamics of the game.
While the result stuck for the rest of a steady first half, the second half exhibited a pedestalled Memo Rodriguez and his prowess with the ball, as the defenders were no match for his exquisite dribbling abilities. A shot followed, and a goal was written in for the score to be at 3-1. Three minutes later, in the 78th, Diego Rossi found space amidst the Texans and landed a second goal for LAFC to reopen the game. After several attempts to create, nothing came to fruition for the rest of the game. During injury time, the 95th minute evened out the game when Diego Rossi’s third goal gave his team a dramatic chance to qualify.
At 3-3, the game continued with 30 minutes of extra time. Time during which both teams had to fight through exhaustion and frustration. Penalties were going to be the decider, where the Dynamo was able to come out with the win at the keeper’s hands, with a 7-6 result.
I believe the September 26th final will be a difficult one for both sides. Houston comes in as a more confident side, after beating a team that ranks high in regular season standings. They were able to paralyze offensive efforts very often, showing great character on defense. However, the last 10 minutes of regular time speak a lot about Houston. Even though the 3-1 score seemed like a secured win, they let it slip at the very end, luckily being able to recover the result with the penalty shootout.
On the opposite end, the Union, I believe, will prove to be the better team. Even though Houston was able to bring a fourth seed team to its knees, the Union put up a display of excellent patience and focus. Their calm demeanor on offense produced a solid result, while the determined defense let no goals make the net.
A 26th of September final gives more than enough time for both teams to anticipate for any of their opponent’s dangerous cards. No matter what, the bout will prove to be exciting with a predicted close scoreboard throughout the whole matchup. Houston will have home advantage at BBVA Compass Stadium, but Philadelphia will come prepared to give everything to win the trophy.
Cover photo: bbvacompassstadium.com
Burke photo: espn.com
Houston photo: dynamotheory.com
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