The 2018 U.S. Open Cup final matchup is set, and if the semifinals are any indication, the title bout will be a barnburner.
First, the Philadelphia Union reached its third U.S. Open Cup semifinal in the last five years with a comprehensive 3-0 win over the Chicago Fire. The winners deserved their victory, with the first goal a stunning feat of teamwork between Alejandro Bedoya, Borek Dockal, and goalscorer Cory Burke.
Bedoya with the audacious chipped delivery, and Burke with the strong, messy finish.
Burke did it again 11 minutes later, beating two defenders and the goalkeeper to put Philadelphia 2-0 up, and then C.J. Sapong picked up Philly’s third with minutes to spare thanks to great touchline work by Fabrice Picault. Philadelphia held just 44% possession, but obliterated Chicago in the shot count 22-8, with a 7-1 advantage on target.
The Union will take on the Houston Dynamo who topped Western Conference contenders LAFC on penalties in dramatic fashion after a 3-3 draw. Diego Rossi scored a hat-trick to complete a comeback after LAFC fell behind 3-1, with the equalizer coming four minutes into extra time.
Houston took a two-goal lead thanks to Memo Rodriguez who came off the bench and earned his way onto the scoresheet just three minutes later. He cut inside on his right foot and fired a low shot into the bottom left corner that LAFC goalkeeper Tyler Miller will want back.
With Houston up 3-1, Rossi grabbed his second in the 78th minute before the equalizer – a spectacular goal, as Rossi capitalized on a mistake by Houston goalkeeper Joe Willis. The 29-year-old netminder came off his line to punch the ball, and with the goal guarded by just three defenders on the line, Rossi headed it from a great distance out on the right edge of the penalty area, looping the ball over Willis and threading it behind the three defenders into the back of the net from a tight angle.
After a goalless extra time, Houston redeemed itself and took it on penalties. The shootout went eight rounds, with LAFC missing for a second time in Round 8 as Latif Blessing’s weak effort was saved by Willis going down to the goalkeeper’s right.
Houston will be playing for its first U.S. Open Cup, as does Philadelphia who looks to avoid being the first team to lose three finals.