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Zac MacMath could have dwelled on the mistake he made that gave FC Dallas an equalizer and lifeline in Tuesday night’s U.S. Open Cup semifinal, but the Philadelphia Union goalkeeper kept his composure and finished out an otherwise outstanding performance with a perfect ending.
MacMath made a pair of saves in the penalty shootout round, including the match-clinching save on a Victor Ulloa spot kick, to help the Union win their Open Cup semifinal at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.
MacMath’s Union teammates were perfect from the penalty spot in the shootout, with Sheanon Williams, Vincent Nogueira, Cristian Maidana and Maurice Edu converting their penalties. MacMath saved a Blas Perez attempt in the third round of kicks, then dove to his left to deny Ulloa.
The victory secures Philadelphia’s place in the U.S. Open Cup Final, which the Union will host at PP&L Park on Sept. 16. They will face the winner of Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup semifinal between the Seattle Sounders and Chicago Fire.
It was a busy night for MacMath, who spent a lot of time coming off his line and breaking up FC Dallas attacks. His aggressiveness came back to bite him in the 81st minute when he raced out of the penalty area to try and beat Fabian Castillo to a ball, only to have the Colombian speedster beat him and then convert into an empty net to tie the score.
“They were playing a lot of balls in-behind our defense and I tried to play a high line and get off my line as much as possible to defend against that,” MacMath said after the match. “Unfortunately, [Castillo] got to it first and made us pay. It’s tough because I felt like I let my team down, so I am just really happy that we were able to battle past that and I was able to do the little things to make this happen.”
Both the Union and FC Dallas felt the fatigue of having just played league matches on Saturday, though Philadelphia had the extra burden of traveling to Texas for the match.
“That was kind of like a heavyweight boxing match,” said Union interim manager Jim Curtin. “Fortunately we were the last team standing even though Dallas put in a great team effort.
“I’m happy,” Curtin added. “I had 11 men out there the whole night and this is something that we have been striving for. Now we host a final and we’re extremely excited.”
The match was fairly evenly-played during regulation, with Castillo causing problems for the Union with his speed, and Philadelphia finding chances behind the FCD defense.
After a scoreless first half, Amobi Okugo gave the Union the lead in the 47th minute when he converted a Sebastien LeToux pass past Raul Fernandez to make it 1-0.
The Union nearly made it 2-0 soon after when Andrew Wenger blasted a shot off the left post.
FC Dallas began to put pressure on later in the second half, with Castillo’s speed causing the Union’s defense problems. He eventually broke through when he beat MacMath to a header pass from Perez, before converting into an empty net.
Neither team could find the net in extra time, with the Union coming closest after a Nogueira shot hit the post, but the Union took control in the penalty shootout to secure the victory.