MATCH RECAP: Union advance to 2018 USOC Finals

Philadelphia Union got three second half goals — including Cory Burke’s fourth and fifth of the season against Chicago Fire — to earn a trip to their third US Open Cup final in five seasons. Alejandro Bedoya set up Burke twice before Fafa Picault’s excellent run opened up CJ Sapong for the third as the match wound down. The Fire never mounted much of a threat, and Jim Curtin’s men will now wait to find out whether they travel to Houston or Los Angeles for the final.

Both teams rested players over the weekend to make sure they were ready for this big semifinal, yet the match began and proceeded at a languid pace. The Union looked to possess the ball and find Borek Dockal in the space cleared by Alejandro Bedoya’s forward runs. However, Chicago’s man-marking system meant it was difficult for Dockal, Bedoya, and Haris Medunjanin to find enough room to turn and face forward.

Meanwhile, the Fire had a clear plan that revolved around overloading the Union right with Bastian schweinsteiger. Raheem Edwards pushed high to prevent Rosenberry from closing on the aging German, and Chicago would then rotate the ball through midfield to create a man-advantage situation before Bedoya could recover to help. This allowed both Schweinsteiger and Edwards to create, and Chicago took advantage to earn a series of corners early on. In the 4th minute, Brandt Bronico was left alone at the back post but could not threaten the goal. Edwards was next to create a half-chance when drove down the left and fired over the goal from a tight angle.

In the 16th minute, the Union nearly took the lead through a Haris Medunjanin set piece. After Burke was taken down 28 yards from goal in the right channel, Medunjanin would up and slammed a free kick off the near post upper ninety. Next, Cory Burke connected with a beautiful cross from Fafa Picault but headed the ball around the post.

At the end of the first half, Schweinsteiger nearly gave the Fire a surprising lead when he rounded Gaddis with a faux-cross and blazed a left-footed shot on goal. Blake got his hands up to palm the chance away and the two teams went into halftime on even terms.

There were no changes at halftime, but it was apparent that the Union’s midfield movement was tiring Chicago’s defenders as they sought to keep up a tight man-marking system. On the first dead ball of ttis Medunjanin lofted in a free kick that was partially cleared and fell to David Accam a few yards inside the right corner of the 18-yard box. He fired it back into the mix, where Bedoya slashed it toward net, only to see Richard Sanchez get down quickly for the save.

Jim Curtin threw on CJ Sapong for Acacm, and the Union were soon in front, though not without controversy. Off a throw-in, Medunjanin centered the ball on the ground for Bedoya. He played a quick give-and-go with Dockal then dinked the ball over the defense to Burke on the right side of the box. The big striker got full wood on the shot and notched his fourth goal against Chicago this year. A second ball had come onto the field early in the play and the Fire felt everything should have been blown dead; The referee appropriately waved play on.

Moments later, Alexander Katai, who was anonymous all night, took out Bedoya’s legs as the Union captain defended him in his own box. Katai was awarded a yellow card, his only real contribution to the match.

The Union were now firmly on the front foot. Picault set up Burke for a shot that spun wide of the post off a deflection. Then Sapong centered a low cross from the right flank that Jack Elliott whiffed, only for Picault to follow it up and put a fine strike just around the near post.

In the 77th minute, the Union doubled their lead and once again it was Burke and Bedoya combining. A long diagonal toward the right touchline was flicked and gave Bedoya something to chase. He was game, and after beating everyone to the spot quickly centered for Burke who was now wide open through the middle. Though his first touch was wide, Burke recovered and obliterated a shot that Sanchez had no chance to stop before it found the back of the net.

Picault continued to be a threat throughout the night, and he was heavily involved in the goal that finally put the match away for good in the 86th minute.

Dribbling inside from the left, Picault found substitute Fabian Herbers inside the box. The winger dropped the ball back off for his teammate, and Picault went towards the endline at top speed, cutting the ball back at the very last moment. Sapong was on hand to turn the ball inside and watched as it skipped past Brandon Vincent’s outstretched leg and into the goal.

The Union will now play in their third US Open Cup final in five years at the home of the winner of tonight’s match between Houston Dynamo and Los Angeles FC. Philly is back in MLS action next Saturday at 7:30PM EST when they travel to New England to face the Revolution.

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