US Open Cup final: Union 1-1 (6-7 PKs) Sporting KC

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Sporting Kansas City are Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup winners for the third time (2004, 2012) in their 20-year history and major trophy winners for the third time (2013 MLS Cup) in four years after knocking off the Philadelphia Union, 1-1 (7-6 on penalty kicks) at PPL Park in the final of the 102nd edition of the competition.

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Paulo Nagamura went inches from giving the visitors a 1-0 lead in the 12th minute. Benny Feilhaber won the ball in the corner, raced along toward the penalty area and crossed to the back post. Graham Zusi corralled the wayward cross and quickly cut the ball back to Nagamura, whose shot hit the far post and bounced back into play, right into the hands of goalkeeper Andre Blake.

It wasn’t long after that Sebastien Le Toux got onto the end of Vincent Nogueira’s brilliant cross-field, diagonal ball and finished inside the far post to put the Union ahead in the 23rd minute.

Tim Melia pulled off a stunning double-save to thwart attempts by Le Toux and Tranquillo Barnetta in the 37th minute. Le Toux got in behind Seth Sinovic once again, received another one of Nogueira’s splitting passes, but his first touch took him away from goal and made the ensuing shot more difficult. Melia was out quick to make the high save. Le Toux then fed the ball to Barnetta, who cut inside onto his left foot and unleashed an effort that looked bound for the back of the net. At full stretch, Melia tipped the ball around his far post.

[ MORE MLS: Week 30 Team of the Week | Player of the Week ]

The second half began much like its predecessor, with the Union picking apart the Sporting KC midfield and defense with dangerous passes and runs through all attacking channels. Melia kept his side in the game with another pair of strong saves, which proved game-changers when Krisztian Nemeth popped up with a stunning finish in the 65th minute.

With just 25 minute left in his side’s run through the 2015 Open Cup, Nemeth found himself the recipient of a clever ball out to the left corner of the 18-yard box, courtesy of Zusi. Nemeth’s first touch? A picture-perfect, right-footed effort that bent the ball around Blake and just inside the far post.

Conor Casey subbed into the game in the 77th minute. Less than a minute later, the veteran striker found himself one on one with Melia down the left side of the six-yard box. Melia was, again, quick off his line and closed the angle down impossibly quickly and made the save.

[ MORE: Bradley speaks on “hate, passion” in U.S. vs. Mexico rivalry ]

After a largely uneventful extra time period, the score remained 1-1 and the game headed to penalty kicks. Jim Curtin did opt to sub out Blake for John McCarthy, the Union’s penalty shootout hero twice already in the 2015 Open Cup.

Le Toux and Feilhaber each converted their attempt from the spot — 1-1 after round no. 1. Nogueira and Dom Dwyer each converted in round no. 2 — 2-2.

Maurice Edu and Nemeth each saw their attempt saved in round no. 3 — 2-2. Barnetta and Matt Besler each converted their attempt in round no. 4 — 3-3.

Casey and Nagamura each converted their attempt in round no. 5 — 4-4, and onto sudden death. Michael Lahoud and Zusi each converted their attempt in round no. 6 — 5-5.

Raymon Gaddis and Kevin Ellis each converted their attempt in round no. 6 — 5-5. Andrew Wenger’s attempt in round no. 7 was saved by the leg of Melia. Jordi Quintilla stepped up next, sent McCarthy one way and coolly rolled the ball over the line to win the shootout, 6-5.

MLS Snapshot: Montreal Impact 0-1 Philadelphia Union (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): It took far less time (roughly 12 months less) for Didier Drogba to make his Major League Soccer debut from the time he signed a contract with the Montreal Impact, than it did for Frank Lampard to do after “signing a contract” with New York City FC. But hey, that’s neither here nor there. Drogba made his MLS debut Saturday night when he came on as a second-half substitute for the Impact, who eventually fell at home to a late goal scored by Sebastien Le Toux. Drogba’s greatest contribution on the night was to help create a raucous atmosphere inside Stade Saputo upon his entrance, though the Chelsea legend nearly opened his account in the game’s dying moments. With the victory, the Union climb out of the Eastern Conference basement with a one-point lead on the Chicago Fire. For the Impact, it’s a game in hand wasted for Frank Klopas’ side who remain in the sixth, level on points with the two expansion sides.

[ MORE: Previewing the other Week 25 games | How close was Lampard to joining LA? ]

Three moments that mattered

59′ — Drogba enters, makes his MLS debut — In the 59th minute, Dilly Duka, the player who gave up “his” No. 11 jersey to make way for Drogba, was subbed out and on came the legendary Ivorian. Check out the scene as Drogba entered the game. In his 31 minutes of action, Drogba took two shots, completed a key pass and 75 percent of his total passes.

78′ — Le Toux’s redirect gives Philly a winner — CJ Sapong sent in the cross from the right side, Eric Ayuk attempted a difficult first-time volley and Le Toux applied the simple redirect touch to beat Evan Bush.

90′ — Drogba’s free kick nearly grazes the crossbar — With just three minutes of stoppage time remaining, Drogba threw his fair bit of weight and clout around to say, “This is my free kick, I’m taking this.” He did, and had the ball dipped a bit more, Andre Blake was absolutely helpless.

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Man of the match: Sebastien Le Toux

Goalscorers: Le Toux (78′)

US Open Cup Snapshot: Philadelphia Union 1-0 Chicago Fire

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The game in 100 words (or less): With a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Fire on Wednesday night, the Philadelphia Union advanced to and will host their second consecutive US Open Cup final at PPL Park. Sebastien Le Toux scored the game’s only goal (his 15th all-time goal in USOC action, extending his own modern-era record) in the 74th minute as Jim Curtin’s side controlled the game’s proceedings for the entirety of 90 minutes. Sean Johnson made a pair of key saves during the first half, but an early injury to debutant striker Gilberto forced the Fire to burn a sub just 21 minutes into the game and Frank Yallop’s side never really found their footing afterward. In the midst of another underwhelming Major League Soccer campaign, the Union find themselves yet again just 90 (or 120) minutes away from the first major trophy in club history. They will host the winner of the second semifinal between Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake in the final on Sept. 30.

[ MORE: SKC 3-1 RSL in SF No. 2Week 23 MLS Team of the Week | Player of  the Week ]

Three moments that mattered

8′ — Johnson saves Maidana’s shot from the top of the box — Johnson made a sprawling save of Christian Maidana’s curling, far-post effort in the eight minute. After CJ Sapong received the ball 15 yards from goal, his first touch got away but found the left foot of Maidana, who Johnson did extremely well to deny.

24′ — Johnson stops Maidana’s again, Sapong pushes rebound wide — Johnson vs. Maidana was the theme of the first half, as the former thwarted the latter yet again in the 24th minute. Unleashing another left-footed shot from just outside the box, Maidana looked to have beaten Johnson to his left-hand post, but the young ‘keeper got down quickly and made the save. The rebound, however, remained in play and fell to the feet of Sapong, who could only hit the outside side netting from a tight angle.

74′ — Le Toux capitalizes on a poor defensive sequence — Shaun Maloney and Razvan Cocis combined for three failed or unattempted tackles at the top of their own penalty area, which provided Le Toux all the time and space in the world to wiggle free and hit a worm-burner just inside Johnson’s left-hand post, this time to a spot just out of reach.

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Man of the match: Sebastien Le Toux

Goalscorers: Le Toux (74′)

MLS Snapshot: Philadelphia Union 3-0 Columbus Crew

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The game in 100 words (or less): Steve Clark was left out to dry, and then returned the favor to his teammates, as the home Union was happy to take both goals and all three points. The Crew, frankly, didn’t seem interested once they were down 2-0, symbolized well by the build-up to Seb Le Toux’s goal to make it 3-0. Philly has won three of four, the lone loss coming to DC over the weekend, and Jim Curtin’s Union is into sixth, within a point of struggling Columbus.

Oh yeah, and uh, Gregg?

Three moments that mattered

41′ — Sapong plays the role of Professor — Columbus’ back line decided to let Philadelphia make an AND1 Mixtape, as Maurice Edu found Carlos Maidana, and a four-way passing play was complete when CJ Sapong, who had just subbed on for the injured Fernando Aristeguieta, slid to tap the ball home. 1-0 Union. I believe they say, “Doop”.

45′ — Finlay’s near-halftime run ends inches from glory  — Ethan Finlay carried the ball down the right side, and his tight-angled shot skittered diagonally across the box before just missing the far post.

52′ — Clark makes monumental screw-up — But he’s been so good. Clark woofed a roll out right into the waiting path of Vincent Nogueira, who stayed cool, calm and collected in lofting a ball over the helpless Columbus back line. 2-0.

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Man of the match: Sebastien Le Toux, Philadelphia — Any number of Union members could’ve earned the honor, but Le Toux made a key pass on Sapong’s goal before sliding home a goal of his own.

LINEUPS

Philadelphia Union: Sylvestre, Williams, Edu, Marquez, Fabinho, Carroll, Nogueira (Pfeffer, 79′), Maidana, Le Toux, Wenger (Ayuk, 78′), Aristeguieta (Sapong, 37′)

Goal: Sapong (41′), Nogueira (52′), Le Toux (59′)

Columbus Crew: Clark, Barson, Pogatetz, Campbell, Francis (Jimenez, 75′), George, Saeid, Finlay (Speas, 65′), Meram, Higuain (Kamara, 65′), Schoenfeld

Chicago trades Austin Berry to Philadelphia

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Oddly, Austin Berry was apparently odd man out in Chicago, which has recently reinforced its roster with two experienced center backs, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Patrick Ianni.

Chicago traded Berry today to Philadelphia, which is a bit of a head-scratcher. Berry, the 2012 MLS Rookie of the Year, is probably just as talented and every bit as dependable as the newest central defensive arrivals into Toyota Park.

Yes, both are more experienced, but that’s the one advantage they offer over Berry. Ianni, in fact, has been a part-time starter during most of his eight years at Houston and Seattle. Compare that to Berry, who got into the Fire lineup early last year and hasn’t missed a match since.

The Union sent an undisclosed amount of allocation money to Chicago, but John Hackworth’s club gets a lot in return. In fact, it’s a lot easier today to see Philadelphia as a playoff team.

There was already a lot to like about Philadelphia, where so much young talent (Zac MacMath, Amobi Okugo, Sheanon Williams and Jack McInerney for starters) is aligned with quite a few trusty vets (Sebastien Le Toux, Brian Carroll and the recently signed Maurice Edu for starters).

But the hole was at center back, where Okugo needed a quality partner. Now, you look up and down the lineup around PPL Park and find yourself nodding affirmatively. (There’s a good look at this post on the Union’s potential opening day lineup.)

There is one caveat here: Berry was better as a rookie, and it’s not so hard to sort that one out. He benefitted greatly from playing alongside Arne Friedrich, a talented and highly professional former German international. When injuries forced Friedrich into retirement last year, Berry wasn’t quite the same.

That doesn’t mean he can’t play without a seasoned vet leading the way alongside, it’s just something to watch and consider.