Philadelphia Union get blown out in US Open Cup Final losing to Houston Dynamo 3-0. An all around ghastly performance see’s the Union lose its third Open Cup Final in five years. Over 24 hours later, Philly Sports Network recaps and reacts to the brutal loss.
On a hot and Humid night the Union started out slow in Houston. Mauro Manotas scored in the third minute to give the Dynamo the lead. Sloppy play from Philly, and Houston making the most of their chances highlighted their first half.
One could say the turning point of the match was in the first four minutes. Early on Houston’s Maruo Manotas found a chance in the Union’s box, the attempt cause him to come up limping. It looked like the Union might catch a break with a dangerous threat hurt.
The Union then moved the ball forward. There was space behind the back line for both Fafa Picault and Cory Burke to run on to a chipped ball. Houston’s keeper Joe Willis rushed to meet the Union attackers, but he was a bit late. Fafa got to the ball first and headed it past Willis and into the net; however, he was offside when the ball was played, so the goal was disallowed. Less than a minute later, the Dynamo found the first goal of the game.
Houston took the goal kick and worked the ball up the field. The Union pressed to try to win the ball in the middle of the field. Houston broke the press by filtering the ball wide to Alberth Elis. He beat Ray Gaddis and moved towards the box. This drew Auston Trusty wide to deal with Elis. The Houston winger beat Trusty, and put a ball into the middle of the box. Maruo Manotas, who had recovered from the earlier knock made a run towards the ball. He got his head to the ball as Jack Elliot tried to react to the run. The ball was placed right where Blake Couldn’t reach it, and Houston had the early lead.
After the goal, the Union were the only team on the ball. From minute five to 25 the Union dictated possession. In that 20 minute span, the Union had many chances, but found no success. The midfield trio of Medujanin, Bedoya and Dockal were not their normal selves. They looked timid to push forward, quick to outlet the ball down the wing or over the top. The one thing the Union had going for them were set pieces.
The Union had around five free kicks from dangerous areas in the first half. All were taken by Medunjanin and either played short to Dockal, or sent into the box. None of them were good enough to warrant any real threat to Houston’s goal, even with more than 70% of possession. The lack of killer instinct hurt the Union.
On one of Philadelphia’s failed possessions, Houston looked to counter. A ball was played wide to Elis, as he assessed where to move the ball, Monotas dropped towards the center circle to give Elis an option. The ball was played to Monotas, who turned and looked to move the ball forward. He moved past the midfield and forced Trusty to step up. The young cetner back stuck out a foot to try to stab the ball from Monotas, but Houston’s striker dodged that. Now with a lane towards the box Monotas moved forward to attempt a shot. The Union scrambled to pressure Monotas, but it was too late. Just outside of the 18 yard box, Monotas fired a perfectly place shot that struck the post of the low-left corner of the goal and ricocheted into the net. 25 minutes into the match, Houston had a two goal lead and the Union looked dead on the pitch.
From minute 25 to 41 the Union once again dictated the flow of play, but couldn’t do anything in the final third of the field. Every player was timid; scared of making the type of passes that have given them so much success over the last two months. There was a glimmer of hope, but it didn’t come from Philadelphia.
At the 41st minute mark, Houston center back Philippe Senderos tweaked a preexisting injury forcing him to go off. Substitute Kevin Garcia came on. With the lack of time to get ready the Union had a chance to take it to the fresh player to test the back line. Alas Philly did not do this they continued to play long balls unsuccessfully.
The Union went into half time down 2-0, and lacking any type of creativity to get back into the game.
The Second half started and look exactly like the end of the first half. Philadelphia was allowed possession, but they lacked any ideas moving forward. The main difference in the second half being that the Union’s outside backs were pushing forward trying to create some overwhelming situations in their attack. This didn’t produce the spark Philly was looking for.
In the middle of the pitch Union players were getting frustrated. Borek Dockal got on the ball in the attacking third, under pressure from Tomás Martínez. Borek leaned into Martínez leaving an elbow high. This resulted in a foul call when the Union actually had a numbers advantage going forward. The Czech got a yellow card for the elbow. Two minutes later Martínez retaliated with a dangerous challenge for a similar foul, and shown a yellow.
Houston’s midfield hunkered in, and fouled the Union’s midfield, frustrating them into playing the ball over the top, or out wide. This took the most talent part of the Union’s attack out of the match. The Union midfield then would lose the ball in the build up play, leaving their defense exposed on a counter attack. Houston took advantage of this, and at the 65th minute mark, they found their third goal.
A break started when Elis won a header over Ray Gaddis. The ball ran to Monotas who took the ball wide, and cut the ball back to Martínez. He was surrounded and the ball was cleared for a moment, but then played back to Quioto who had a free line to the Union’s goal. He took the chance firing a shot. Andre Blake saved the initial attempt but it took an awkward deflection of the keeper. Auston Trusty was closet to the ball and tried to clear the ball away from an onrushing Monotas. The Union’s promising homegrown center back cleared the ball awkwardly ,and it ended up going into his own net. Houston now had a three goal lead.
Jim Curtin was forced into making changes after the third goal. He had limited attackers on the bench. In the 68th minute he took off promising striker Cory Burke, who had little success finding space to get on the ball. On came Jay Simpson, who scored twice in his last outing. While Simpson create one-to-two chances as the match went on he was not the solution to the Union’s finishing woes. Curtin then brought on David Accam for Borek Dockal in the 78th minute. The frustrating night for Dockal was over; Accam chance to spark a comeback with his blazing speed never came to fruition.
With a minute left in regular time, Derrick Jones came on for Haris Medunjanin. Haris had an uncharacteristically sloppy day passing the ball. The Bosnian was nowhere to be found in the build up play. Derrick Jones has looked very good this year, but with very little time to influence the game his cameo produced nothing. It truly was not the Union’s night.
After the third goal, the Union were able to create some attacks, but they lacked a finishing touch. The Union were not alloted space in the middle of the field to create chances, instead Houston forced them wide, to cross balls into the box. This rattled the Union. Players were forcing things in the muddled up midfield, and losing possession with too many numbers forward. The clocked ticked down, and the Union continued to struggle.
The final whistle blew; Houston won the 2018 US Open Cup 3-0 on their home field. A frustrating night for Philadelphia ends in heartbreak as the club loses their third US Open Cup final in five years.
Shaky play, on the ball and off it:
The Union were a bit off from the get-go. Their play was shaky. When on the ball their play making midfielders were forced off the ball, their wingers and outside backs were then too timid to move the ball forward like they normally do. Multiple attacks were thwarted by players taking too many touches as the moved toward the final third. Houston took Philly’s veteran midfield triangle off the ball; and they were rewarded for that.
When the Union did not have the ball they were often times out of position. This led to defenders scrambling to stop attacks, throwing themselves into dangerous or bad challenges. Philly was out of position on all three goals. Houston did a great job of moving Philly around and exploited the open spaces. This style of play did more than take a championship from the Union.
The blueprint of how to beat Philadelphia was executed:
Houston’s style of play presents the blueprint of how to beat the 2018 Philadelphia Union. If you can muck-up the middle of the field and force the Union to play long balls over the top or wide, then you can get them out of position. Stop their attacks that way, and the Union are out of position defensively.
Houston executed this perfectly on all three of their goals. Only time will tell if other teams pick up this style of play when they play Philadelphia.
It’s okay to be angry:
Excuse my language, but the Union fucked up a huge opportunity. The missed out on a championship, extra money in the bank and CONCACAF Champions league games. Not to mention the amount of new fans they’d bring in for finally winning something. The opportunity to become more relevant in the Philly sports scene was wasted again.
While it’s not healthy to always be upset with how the Union operate, it’s okay to be angry right now. The opportunity was there, and the players and coaches flopped. Be angry; be sad. It’s the time for that. Come this Saturday, refresh your mind and see how they do against Columbus in what is essentially a playoff match before the playoffs.
This is not the end for the Philadelphia’s 2018 season:
While the Union looked horrid at Houston, this is not the end of their 2018 campaign. They are still in fifth place in MLS’ Eastern Conference with four games to play. Odd’s have the Union as a lock to make the playoffs (95%).
With the MLS season winding down coupled with losing the US Open Cup final, the Union now have to work extra hard. They have to win back fans, and show that hey can make a playoff run. Lets see what happens.
PHILADELPHIA UNION STARTING XI:
Andre Blake; Ray Gaddis, Auston Trusty, Jack Elliot, Keegan Rosenberry; Alejandro Bedoya, Haris Medunjanin (Derrick Jones 89′), Fafa Picault, Borek Dockal (David Accam 78′), David Accam; Cory Burke (Jay Simpson 68′)
Substitutes not used: John McCarthy; Mark McKenzie, Fabinho, Warren Creavalle.
HOUSTON DYNAMO STARTING XI:
Joe Willis; Andrew Wenger, Philippe Senderos (Kevin Garcia 41′), Alejandro Fuenmayor, DaMarcus Beasley; Juan Cabezas, Tomás Martínez, Óscar Boniek García (Darwin Cerén 78′); Alberth Elis, Mauro Manotas, Romell Quioto (Memo Rodríguez 83′)
Substitutes not used: Chris Seitz; A.J. DeLaGarza; Arturo Álvarez, Eric Bird.
HOU – Mauro Manotas (Alberth Elis) 4′
HOU – Mauro Manotas (Alberth Elis) 25′
HOU – Auston Trusty (OG) 65′
PHI – Borek Dockal (caution) 51′
HOU – Tomás Martínez (caution) 53′
HOU – Mauro Manotas (caution) 61′
HOU – Óscar Boniek García (caution) 69′
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Peace out Union fans!
Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports