The Houston Dynamo are searching for a trophy to help offset an otherwise disappointing season, while the Philadelphia Union are trying to keep an impressive season going by winning the first trophy in the club’s history.
That is the scene for Wednesday night’s U.S. Open Cup final showdown. at BBVA Compass Stadium, where Dynamo welcome the Union to town for the second time this season. The two have met once already in 2018, a 3-1 triumph for the Union back in late July which helped spark Jim Curtin’s side to a terrific run of form since.
Their 7-2-1 record since success in Houston in MLS play has helped the Union to their third U.S. Open Cup Final berth and a current fifth-place spot in the Eastern Conference. Last week saw the Union earn six points in a pair of showdowns against the Seattle Sounders and Sporting KC respectively which has the team excited coming into Wednesday’s clash.
“We come here with a very fresh group, one that is hungry and humble and in good form,” Curtin said. “We will put a top squad on the field chasing our first trophy in club history. There has been some years where we’ve been close, this is the third time we’ve tried to chase a trophy for our club and fans. We’re excited and we have a confident group ready to do that in Houston.”
“Lifting a trophy with your teammates where it be as a coach or player lasts forever, it’s permanent,” Curtin said. “You still keep in touch with the guys who you won it with. I want nothing more for my players that to experience those feelings. I’m a big believer in the players that are on my squad want nothing more than to win this trophy.”
The Union have posted a pair of clean sheets in their last two wins, with Andre Blake and John McCarthy each earning one apiece. Blake missed Sunday’s 2-0 win over SKC due to an illness but is expected to be back in between the posts barring anything serious. Centerbacks Auston Trusty and Mark McKenzie have taken huge steps in 2018, growing with every minute they are on the field.
Midfielders Borek Dockal and Alejandro Bedoya will headline the Union with their ability to get up field and attack. Even if those two cannot get going, the Union has seen several other players contribute such as Cory Burke, Fafa Picault, and Haris Medunjanin. Jay Simpson is coming off his first senior brace with the Union, while David Accam and Fabian Herbers also provide options out wide.
“The team who went out there on Sunday and got a result against SKC has just given us even more confidence coming into this game,” Bedoya said. “We’ve taken every match the same all season with confidence but also in being humble. We’ve shown throughout this cup that we’ve been the fairer and better team so hopefully we can translate it over to the game against Houston.”
As for Houston, Wednesday night’s final will mark their first-ever finals appearance after being eliminated twice in the semifinals. Unlike the Union, Wilmer Cabrera’s squad has only won twice over their last 13 matches in all competitions which has also seen them drift out of the West’s playoff picture.
Despite having one of the more-dominant attacking fronts in MLS, they’ve been inconsistent in front of goals especially since the beginning of July. With only a pair of two-goal performances since July 7th, the Dynamo will need to play their style against the Union and try and snap out of their funk in quick fashion.
“For us it’s a great honor to host this match and to put Houston in another final,” Cabrera said. “We understand the concept of playing in a final and it’s hard to understand the feelings inside during one. That’s how important this game will be for us and for the Union as well.”
“When you are younger you just go out and play, but when you get older it means a lot more and to reach a final and lift a title it becomes even more important,” Dynamo wingback DaMarcus Beasley said. “For me and for all the guys, it’s not easy to get to finals now we want to take it with both hands and celebrate afterwards.”
Beasley is a true leader in the backline for the Dynamo, who will look to keep the Union on the back-foot. Headlined by Honduran international wingers Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto, the Dynamo’s gameplan will be to control the tempo and counter-attack whenever possible. Tomas Martinez and Mauro Manotas round out the talented front-four who have scored 33 of the team’s 47 league goals this season.
All four bring different elements onto the pitch and will give every one of the Union players a different factor to worry about. The key for the Dynamo will be to use the energy of being at home and in front of their fans to their advantage. The regular season has not gone their way by any stretch, but the chance of lifting a title would add meaning to 2018 for Cabrera and Co.
“We’ve been having difficulties in the MLS season, but we’ve been able to beat Sporting KC the defending Open Cup champs in the quarterfinals,” Cabrera said. “We’re gonna play the final which has been positive but other situations have not gone our way. When you win a trophy as important as the Open Cup, it’s going to be a huge success for a franchise that has not won one like us. For the players it’s not easy to get here, it’s really positive for all of us to be here but we need to win it first.”