Aug 13, 2014, 12:03 AM EDT
It’s the first final in the franchise’s short history, but one the team will wage in front of its home crowd. Thanks to a four straight conversions in Tuesday’s penalty kick shutout, the Philadelphia Union is into the final of the U.S. Open Cup, eliminating FC Dallas after a 1-1 draw in Frisco, Tex.
Philadelphia’s goal came in the 47th minute, with an attack led by Sebastien Le Toux culminating in a ball rolled across the Dallas penalty area. Coming forward from midfield, Amobi Okugo beat Raúl Fernández, whose left-to-right path across his goal left the Peruvian unable to stop the game’s opening goal.
Late in the second half, Fabián Castillo’s fourth goal of the competition gave Dallas its equalizer, with the two semifinalists playing out the final 39 minutes at 1-1. Once there, a fifth round save by Zac MacMath on Victor Ulloa sending their hosts out of the competition.
With the win, Philadelphia’s within 90 minutes of the club’s first major honor, with the Union scheduled to host the winner of tomorrow’s semifinal between Seattle and Chicago in Tukwila, Wash. That match will be held at PPL Park on Sept. 16.
An even first half that left the best chance with Philadelphia saw the injury problems that have plagued Dallas throughout the season resurface. In the 37th minute, defender Walter Zimmerman appeared to aggravate a groin injury, forcing head coach Óscar Pareja to call on Je-Vaughn Watson. Coming out of halftime, injuries to Mauro Díaz and Adam Moffat saw Ryan Hollingshead and Stephen Keel brought on in their place, with Pareja out of substitutions by the time Mark Geiger blew the second half’s whistle.
Before those new faces had time to adjust, Vincent Nogueira had found Le Toux down Philadelphia’s right, giving the veteran attacker a chance to tee-up a chance in the middle of Dallas’s penalty area. Trailing the play, Okugo ran onto a one-timed shot, opening his foot onto the game’s first goal.
A short time later, Blas Pérez had a chance to pull his team even, lofting a shot over MacMath, wide of an open net. Near the 70th minute, Dallas starting used Castillo’s speed to beat the Union defense, with two through balls in a minute’s time testing MacMath’s willingness to come off his line. Both times, the Philadelphia keeper was up to the challenge, with the Union regaining some control of the game after the close calls.
In the 81st minute, that control came back to haunt them, with Dallas able to catch their guests on the counter. Again, it was Castillo put in behind the defense, only this time, MacMath was late. Poking the ball past the oncoming keeper, the Colombian attacker was left with an empty net, pull his team even, 1-1.
Castillo had another chance to win the game before full-time, as did Matt Hedges, whose shot through the chaos after a corner kick forced Ethan White to save a potential winner off the line. In extra time, Pérez and Hollingsworth had their chances, while Nogueira became the second Union player to hit the upright (Andrew Wenger did the same in second half).
Penalty kicks, however, couldn’t be avoided, with a depleted Dallas given its reprieve in the 120th minute. After both teams converted their first two kicks, MacMath saved a Pérez chance headed into the left side of goal. Conversions by Cristian Maidana and Maurice Edu meant Dallas’s fifth kick was a must-make, but when MacMath guessed correctly and dove for his left post, Philadelphia had it tiebreaker, one that vaulted the team into its first cup final.
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