Union face off against the Chicago Fire in U.S. Open Cup Semi-Finals

Wenger vs. Chicago

Chicago Fire (6-12-4, 22 points) at Philadelphia Union (6-13-5, 23 points)

What: Semi-Finals, 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup; When: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: PPL Park, Chester, Pa. Tickets:here

TV: None;Radio: None

Social: Follow the action via Twitter: @TheUMatchday

They’re here.

The semi-finals of the U.S. Open Cup take place this Wednesday with the Union  taking on the Chicago Fire at PPL Park while Sporting Kansas City face Real Salt Lake in Kansas City. The winner will advance to the Open Cup finals in September while the losers go home with nothing.

The Union have been here before, making it to the semi-finals in 2014, much more recent than the Fire’s last appearance in 2011. This means that a core group of guys, 15 to be exact, were there for the crushing home defeat to the Seattle Sounders.

Playing at the semi-final at home is a huge step on the road to victory for the Union. In their 14 games played at PPL Park this season, the team has gone 7-5-2, including a 2-0-0 record in Open Cup play. The Fire on the other hand have yet to collect a win away from home, going 0-7-3. They also have yet to play an Open Cup game away from home this season, playing all three matches in Toyota Park.

“Obviously having home field advantage is huge,” said head coach Jim Curtin. “It’s difficult to go on the road in this league, whether it’s in the Open Cup or regular season you see even the great teams like LA struggle on the road and I think they just got their first win. It’s a hard thing in pro sports to go on the road so obviously knowing that they’ve struggled on the road this year plays into our hands a bit to have both this and the following game against them in kind of a unique setup.”

Part of the reason the Union have been so successful in their Open Cup matchups this season is due to the success of John McCarthy in goal. In the three games so far this season, McCarthy has allowed only two goals and has been named Man of the Match twice after his performances against the Rochester Rhinos and the New York Red Bulls. Against the Red Bulls, McCarthy made an eye-popping nine saves, not including his save in the penalty shootout that would decide the game.

“It’s just another game or games to play in to get an opportunity to play,” McCarthy said. “I mean, I guess you can say that everyone is a little more revved up because it’s a single elimination game so if you lose there’s no more Open Cup for the rest of the season, you have to wait until next year.”

Going into Wednesday’s game, the Union will most likely be without Maurice Edu(groin) and Vincent Nogueira(quad) although both players have made huge strides this week in terms of getting healthy. With Edu out, Curtin will likely pair Richie Marquez back up with Steven Vitoria in central defense.

“I think that they had a good performance against Orlando,” said Curtin when asked what he thought about Vitoria and Marquez together for a second game. “They did a good job of limiting Orlando’s chances. It’s a team performance obviously but Orlando had the one shot in the first half outside the box which was the only one that we gave up and it was a pretty easy save for John to make so I’m happy with how they did.”

If the Union win against Chicago, they have a to wait on the result of the Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake game to see if they will have the chance to host the final. If Sporting KC win, the Union will host the final at PPL Park for the second time in two years.

“We have a good opportunity if we take care of business against Chicago to host the final here at PPL again,” said Curtin. “Being one game away from a final is an important step to this club and winning these big games of consequence is important for any new club. To get the first trophy is the hardest thing to do and it’s something that we have unfinished business with. That’s kind of been our mantra the whole way through.”

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