Call it fate, destiny, irony…whatever.
But on this night this reporter would rather use iron will.
Clad in the black and white of five-time U.S. Open Cup winners Bethlehem Steel, the Philadelphia Union qualified for its first final in franchise history after a 2-1 victory in extra time against FC Dallas.
Actually, the Union bested Dallas 4-3 on penalty kicks after goalkeeper Zac MacMath parried a pair of goals – including Dallas stalwart Blas Perez – to seal the win. Credit the entire Union team however for finding the fortitude late to convert all four from the spot without a hitch. As a result, the Union will now host the winner at PPL Park between the Seattle Sounders and Chicago Fire on Sept. 16 at 7:30 p.m.
“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; 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.”
It was the Union that struck first in the 47th minute after Amobi Okugo neatly slipped in a driven ball across the box from Sebastien Le Toux.
However, in the 81st minute, Fabian Castillo, the FC Dallas winger that doubles as a gazelle most days was at it again using his speed to bypass MacMath on a rundown and tapped the ball past and coolly slotted home the equalizer, setting the stage for a grueling extra time stanza that saw a ton of chances – and even one that looked to have secured the Union the win after a run in the box from Vincent Nogueira was rewarded with a chance at goal. With the window quickly closing Nogueira placed a low hard shot on goal that beat Dallas keeper Raul Fernandez, but not the post as it caromed off and roll harmlessly across Dallas’ 18-yard-box.
“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 postgame. “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.”
However it was well placed penalties from Sheanon Williams, Vincent Nogueira, Maurice Edu and the clincher from Cristian Maidana that secured the Union a berth into the final.
Tuesday night is for celebration. But it’s a short lived party as the Union now prepare for another showdown in Texas as Houston is next on Friday (9 p.m., NBC Sports Network). That match will round out a three-game in seven-day stretch for the club.
“It’s awesome. It’s a feeling that this club has never had before and I know our fans back home are really excited,” said Okugo. “We’re happy to be able to bring it back home. Now we shift our focus to Houston and hopefully look to finish this trip to Texas on a high note.”
What were your thoughts on this match? Leave a comment below.
Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at email@example.com
Philadelphia Union 1, FC Dallas 1 (Philadelphia advance on penalty kicks 4-3)
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas
PHI: Okugo 47’
DAL: Castillo 81’
PHL: White (yellow card 75’)
PHL: Lahoud (yellow card 103’)
PHL: Cruz (yellow card 114’)
PHILADELPHIA UNION STARTING XI
MacMath, Williams, Edu ©, White, Gaddis, Lahoud, Okugo, Nogueira, Le Toux (Maidana 97’), Wenger (Cruz 90’), Casey (Brown 63’)
Unused Subs: Blake, Valdes, Carroll, Fred
FC DALLAS STARTING XI
Fernandez, Michel, Zimmerman (Watson 37’), Hedges ©, Loyd, Ulloa, Moffat (Keel 45’), Castillo, Diaz (Hollingshead 45’), Akindele, Perez
Unused Subs: Sanchez, Benitez, Garcia, Acosta