US Open Cup Final Preview, part 2: Philadelphia and Houston look for first Open Cup Championship

Cory Burke (left) and Fafa Picault (Right) celebrate the go ahead goal in last road match at Houston.

The Philadelphia Union are in the US Open Cup Final for the third time in franchise history. Philadelphia has looked very good in this tournament; over the four game stretch that made up this US Open Cup campaign, the Union have scored 11 goals and conceded just one. All four of those matches have been home games thanks to the luck of the draw. Now, Philadelphia travels to Houston for the chance to win their first ever trophy.

As you get ready for the game, Philly Sports Network has you covered with previews from our Union writers. Part 2 come’s from Jeff Green, who takes an in-depth look at Philadelphia and Houston as they both look for their first US Open Cup Championship!

If you missed Part 1, find it here!

Cory Burke (left) and Fafa Picault (Right) celebrate the go ahead goal in last road match at Houston.

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.

How far we’ve come. It’s not a question, but a statement. Personally, there were times earlier this season when I ripped this club to shreds, coach and all. Yes, there are still improvements to be made in many areas, but I, like many of you, have to eat crow for now.

Not all, but most seemed lost after the Union’s 4-1 drubbing to Montreal. The reason was two-fold: Montreal was right on their heels for play-off positioning but were pegged as a more than probable win, and the two opponents who followed, Seattle and Kansas City, were looking like juggernauts. It’s only fun to beat a dead horse if it’s good news so I’ll just repeat it. A shutout at Seattle Wednesday and a shutout at home against Sporting KC Sunday, with a lineup consisting of mostly bench players and part-time regulars, and the Union are perfectly positioned to tie or leap-frog Columbus this Saturday. The biggest key was the win at Seattle. If the Union had lost, Coach Curtin might have had to play more regulars against Kansas City, thus sacrificing some minutes from the U.S. Open Cup final on Wednesday. No need. This team is well-rested.

Houston Dynamo head coach, Wilmer Cabrera, did something unexpected this past weekend. His club is basically out of playoff contention, and of course knew he had the Open Cup final mid-week, yet still started most of his regulars. Apparently, he thinks staying sharp is of the utmost importance, even more so than endurance. I’m hoping he doesn’t realize the match can go 120 minutes or more. As far as the structure of the Dynamo, their number of goals scored and surrendered are very similar to the Union. The difference being the Union (46 points and 5th place in the East) and the Dynamo (32 points and 10th place in the West), is that the Union win close matches and Houston does not. The boys in blue have demonstrated patience and continuity in the latter stages of tied and one-goal matches, better than Houston has in 2018.

Dynamo star, Alberth Elis, has a well-earned flair for the dramatic

Their strength is no doubt their scoring punch up top. Statistical leaders for the Dynamo include third-year Colombian striker, Mauro Manotas, who leads the club and is among league leaders with 14 goals on the season, and Honduran forward, Romell Quioto is tops on the club with 11 assists. But, the most dangerous player on the home side is Quioto’s fellow countryman, Alberth Elis, notching 11 goals and 9 assists on the season. Again, the postseason isn’t in the cards for the Dynamo, so the success of their entire season is riding on Wednesday.  It might sound strange, but being a hardcore Union fan, the site of Andrew Wenger on the pitch is filling my belly with more angst than anyone I’ve just mentioned.

In contrast, the Union, eleven points up on D.C. United, have all but clinched a playoff berth. They are also coming into the final in better form and better rested. Houston has won only twice in their previous twelve matches, while the Union have won eight during that span. Jim Curtin also has his team well-rested. Haris Medunjanin, C.J. Sapong, Cory Burke, Andre Blake, Jack Elliot and Ray Gaddis are all expected to start Wednesday night, and all of them have been off for a week. Only the twenty year old center back, Auston Trusty, played all 90 minutes against Sporting Kansas City on Sunday. The point being he is only twenty and if anyone can handle the quick turn-around it’s Trusty. He and Elliot will have to be ready to mark Elis and Manotas if they get anywhere near the Union goal. The x-factor might be the returning super sub, Ilsinho, returning from an adductor injury. Especially in the instance the final goes into extra time, he is excellent at wearing down already tired defenders.

This one will come down to the better team, not home field. The Union know this too well as they’ve lost two finals at home. In the last ten Open Cup finals, the road team has won four times. It will be a war of talent and attrition and I believe overall, the Philadelphia Union have more of both. After the final whistle this past Sunday, I saw Jim Curtin pump his fist in excitement. Might not seem like a big deal but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him show emotion like that while on the field. He wants this, the players want this, and boy, do their supporters want this!

Image result for fafa picault dancing gif

Prediction: Dynamo: 2 Union: 4

Union Man of the Match: Fafa Picault

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Peace out Union fans!

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports.