Cory Burke

How the Union and the Dynamo got to the USOC Finals

Fourth Round

Houston 5-0 NTX Rayados

The Dynamo faced off against NTX Rayados of the North Texas Premier Soccer Association. This turned out to be an easy trot for the MLS club as they barely got out of first gear on their way to a 5-0 victory. There was little to learn from this one as the Dynamo were never under any real threat.

Philadelphia 5-0 Richmond Kickers

Richmond Kickers proved little challenge for a Union side filled with youth. Anthony Fontana, Matt Real, Mark McKenzie, and Derrick Jones all started the match and Jack Elliott began his prodigious 2018 goalscoring with a third minute goal off Haris Medunjanin’s corner kick. Philly would be up 4-0 before halftime, with Fontana, Marcus Epps, and David Accam all collecting goals (though Fontana’s is often counted as an own goal, this seems like a very iffy decision). Jay Simpson added a fifth in the second half, and Richmond’s makeshift five-man defense was thoroughly destroyed.

Round of 16

Houston 1-0 Minnesota United

The home side struggled in this one as Minnesota United got a huge late push from Darwin Quintero but couldn’t break through. After a first half that must have made the MLS digital team wonder how they were ever going to create a four minute long highlight video, the Dynamo opened the second forty-five with a wonderful near post header from Mauro Manotas to go ahead. The last half hour, however, was as one sided as a match can get. Quintero lofted balls over Houston’s back line repeatedly and nobody seemed willing to adjust. In the 88th minute, a foul on a headed chance gave Quintero a spot kick, but the exciting playmaker clanked his shot off the right post and the Dynamo survived.

Philadelphia 2-1 New York Red Bulls

New York Red Bulls came to Philly looking to recover their early season form. After a four match winning streak, they had been stifled by the Union at home, fallen to New England, and drawn with Columbus before eking out a 2-1 win over struggling Seattle. Jesse Marsch rested key men, hoping that a young lineup could see his side past a Union squad still a bit dazed after losing Haris Medunjanin and Ale Bedoya to red cards against Atlanta and then falling 2-0 to Toronto despite controlling the early phase of the match.

It was not to be for Red Bulls. Bedoya and Medunjanin brought the fire of those wronged to the Talen Energy Stadium field, repeatedly fooling onrushing New York defenders. It was no surprise, then, that it was the two veterans combining — and Medunjanin using a bit of magic to send Tyler Adams the wrong way — for the opening goal, a long distance strike from the Bosnian that deflected past Luis Robles. The same two players came together to set up Cory Burke’s goal minutes later, one that would become necessary after Bradley Wright-Phillips pulled one back for the enemy.

Quarterfinals

Houston 4-2 Sporting Kansas City

This one should set off alarm bells for Union fans. The Dynamo picked apart a quality opponent after going behind early, and they did it through the varied skill set of Romell Quioto. First, Quioto whipped in a stunner of a free kick from just above the box in the center. Then he hit the speed burst button and zipped past Kansas City’s high back line, controlling a long aerial pass and dinking his finish into the net.

The Dynamo got behind KC’s line again through Mauro Manotas to go up 3-1 and added a fourth by creating a 2v1 that Manotas finished with his head from the center of the box. A late consolation goal made the final score 4-2, but this entire match stands out as an example of what can happen if you allow Houston’s midfield the time to pick out it’s talented front three. Since Philly plays a high line, they must put pressure on the Dynamo’s midfield or they risk allowing Quioto and the equally-if-not-more dangerous Alberth Elis to run away with the final.

Philadelphia 1-0 Orlando City

If there was any doubt that the US Open Cup was Ale Bedoya’s stage, this match put it to rest. On a fourth minute corner kick, Fafa Picault pushed the ball back across the goalmouth to Bedoya and the captain drove it into the net to put the Union on top. What followed was one of the Union’s best halves of soccer all season, and only through luck and goaltending was Orlando City able to stay close. Borek Dockal had two big chances inside the box and David Accam pushed a shot around the far post in an onslaught that saw Philly dominate the center of the pitch. Despite a change of approach after halftime, new Purple Lions head coach James O’Connor could not find a way through the Union defense.

Semifinals

Houston 3-3 LAFC (7-6 on penalties)

In a wild match, the Dynamo finished off LAFC in the eighth round of penalty kicks after giving up a two goal lead in the final fifteen minutes of the game. Diego Rossi scored early and then added two more late for LAFC. Meanwhile, Houston’s tallies came from a surprising array of contributors. First, Andrew Wenger plunked the ball into the net off his thighs, then Manotas and Memo Rodriguez added goals to give what appeared to be a solid cushion to the home side. Rossi’s one-man comeback sent the game to extra time and then penalties, where Philippe Senderos finished things off for Houston to send them to their first ever US Open Cup final.

Philadelphia 3-0 Chicago Fire

Chicago never had a chance. Raheem Edwards gave the visitors a false dawn with his early attacks up the left and Bastian Schweinsteiger fired a rocket on goal to end the first half, but the Fire had no way through. In the latter half, Bedoya took the match by the scruff of the neck, playing a 1-2 before popping the ball over the defense for Cory Burke to slam home. CJ Sapong nodded a long ball on to Bedoya in the 78th minute and the captain set up Burke’s second of the day, then Fabian Herbers and Fafa Picault combined to put the ball on Sapong’s feet in front of the goal mouth and the 3-0 scoreline was complete.

Now the Union and Dynamo meet in a final that will see one club collect their first US Open Cup title. Jim Curtin’s Union are in their third final in five years and desperate for silverware. Houston, meanwhile, is in their first Open Cup title bout and is ready to sit back and counterattack their way to a win.

Catch all the action Wednesday night at 8PM EST on ESPN2.

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