Last night the Philadelphia Union played host to the Chicago Fire in the U.S. Open Cup semi final. Now, after a gruelling 90 minute affair, they will HOST the US Open Cup Final against Sporting Kansas City following a 1-0 win over Chicago.
The first half was an entirely one sided affair. The Union had seven shots in comparison to Chicago’s lone strike. The away side’s constant “Fire” chant was extinguished by the Sons Of Ben who controlled the chorus all night long, just like Chaco Maidana controlled the midfield. Not only was he creating chance after chance, but also laying down some huge pressure on the Fire Goalkeeper. The Argentine was no doubt the source of all Union attacks in the first period, sending Sean Johnson diving across the goal just eight minutes in before clattering the post less than twenty minutes later.
Perhaps the most notable chance of the first half came just 8 minutes before the whistle. Sebastien Le Toux slid in on the edge of the box to drill in a low cross to C.J Sapong. The striker had already missed a couple of chances but this was to be the one that would sting the most. Sapong attempted what looked to be a backheel but saw the ball trail straight through his legs, eliminating the chance of breaking the deadlock.
Fabinho may have picked up an early yellow card, but that didn’t stop him having a career defining game. It would be incredibly difficult to watch that game back and find a tackle he didn’t win fairly or an attacking move he didn’t feature in. His partnership with new signing Barnetta in the opening 45 minutes was simply unstoppable. Some tidy one-two moves and great chemistry between them saw the left flank become a no go area for the Fire.
The Fire’s main source of attack came from sending deep balls to Accam as predicted and with Fabinho booked, it meant that Gaddis was doing a lot of work..and doing it well. Accam could not break free into open space as Gaddis was almost tied to him the entire half. Edu had also made some very composed stops in the box to ensure that keeper McCarthy had as little to worry about as possible.
The first half team talk would have been essentially a call to become more clinical. There was no other fault visible when the Union were in possession. All they had to do was focus on simplicity and take more composed shots.
The Fire surprisingly had the better of the second half…for about four minutes. After Chicago had a few minor chances to get back into the game, it was almost a first half repeat. The Union once again resumed full control. A lot of that was down to the work of Michael Lahoud, who was playing his first full 90 minutes since his injury in May. He played exceptionally well and allowed Maidana to push forward without a single worry about lack of cover behind him.
Time began to pass quicker and quicker as the threat of a third Open Cup fixture heading to extra time loomed. Those quarms were abolished in the 75th minute when who else but the all-time leading goalscorer in the competition found the back of the net.
It was Brian Carroll who picked up a defensive pass that went wrong before playing it to the frenchman. Le Toux accidentally nutmegged a defender before showing the ball onto his left foot before smashing it into the bottom corner, streaming passed Johnson to give the Union a 1-0 lead.
It was the nail in the Coffin for Chicago who had struggled to create chances all game, eventually losing on shots 11-3. The Fire had no answer for the sheer passion the Union displayed. It wasn’t that they played badly, it was that the Union evidently wanted it more. You could feel the passion as the team ignited play after play. Maidana and Fabinho stood out as top performers but the entire team can hold their heads high after that.
Now, brimming with confidence, the Union can head into a game with Chicago one more time this season knowing that they played them out of PPL Park just days beforehand. They will hope for a direct replica at PPL Park come matchday.
The Union are just one game away from silverware for the second year running. As our main man the Union Hulk would say…LETS DO THE DOOP-Y DANCE.