A third US Open Cup final appearance coming up for Philadelphia Union after they knocked off Chicago Fire 3-0 on Wednesday night. The Union were by far the better team, but they struggled to create good chances in the first half against the visitors, who did their best to frustrate Philly with a man-marking system that took the best players out of the match.
Breakthrough breaks their backs
Once the Union got their opener, the Fire quickly folded. Why? Because the Chicago’s man-marking system required their midfielders to constantly run after Philly’s big three in the center. The first goal killed the Fire’s energy, and after that CJ Sapong and Fafa Picault constantly attacked up the wings.
This has been a big part of the Union’s season — once they get the first goal, they can solidify control over the match and rely on their system to help them see out games.
Eyes on Schweini
The Fire’s attack revolves almost entirely around finding Schweinsteiger as he roams around the field looking for space. In the first half, the German popped up in the left halfspace constantly, trying to pull Rosenberry upfield so Raheem Edwards could sneak behind up the wing.
As the Union adjusted their defense to account for that tactic, Schweinsteiger tried to find space on the right, but with Alexander Katai struggling to get involved in the match and Ray Gaddis at the top of his game, the Fire were never again able to mount a consistent threat on the Union’s final third.
Bedoya does it all
Ale Bedoya spent the first half pushing into Chicago’s back line, but the Fire did a good job handing him off between the defenders and midfielders. In the second half, the Union captain made dynamic movements across the pitch, and his play to create the first goal was an excellent example of the full range of his skills. Bedoya found space away from the man-marking at the top of the box and played so quickly that Chicago could not track him. A give and go with Dockal left Bedoya with a lot to do, but he pulled an exquisite lifted pass to Burke to set up the winning goal.
Notably, Bedoya immediately tracked back on the very next play, wrestling with Katai deep in the Union box until the frustrated Serbian threw him to the ground and picked up a card.
The Union’s big win means they will move on to the US Open Cup final against the winner of Houston Dynamo and Los Angeles FC.