Cory Burke of the Philadelphia Union celebrates one of his two goals in a 3-0 home win over the Chicago Fire in the 2018 US Open Cup Semifinals. Photo: Chris Szagola | Philadelphia Union
Three second-half goals propelled the Philadelphia Union to its third Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Final, blowing away the Chicago Fire, 3-0.
Cory Burke and Alejandro Bedoya were the heroes for the Union, as Bedoya set up Burke twice to break the deadlock that lasted into the 60th minute. CJ Sapong added a third goal on an assist from Fafa Picault to put the game away late.
In the first half, four-time Open Cup winners Chicago was first to have a clear shot on goal, but the Union’s Haris Medunjanin provided the first highlight of the game. His free kick from about 30 yards out beat goalkeeper Richard Sanchez but rattled the crossbar, tantalizingly close to the game’s first goal.
The teams traded chances 20 minutes later. First, in the 37th minute, Bastian Schweinsteiger just barely missed a bicycle kick attempt, to the oohs and aahs of home and away fans alike. Two minutes later, it was the Union’s turn, as Jack Elliott headed a corner kick just high over the bar.
After the halftime break, Sanchez made a point-blank save on Bedoya. A free kick rebounded out to David Accam. His shot deflected to Bedoya, whose close range effort required a spectacular save by Sanchez.
Bedoya was involved in the action again for the Union’s first goal. Bedoya and Borek Dockal played a one-two sequence at the top of the Chicago box, then Bedoya chipped the ball perfectly to Burke on the right side of the box. Burke powered it home for the game’s opening goal.
The same two players were involved when Philadelphia doubled its lead. Just seconds after a hydration break finished in the 77th minute, Bedoya got the ball wide open on the right. He crossed it to Burke, who smashed it to the left of Sanchez for his third goal of the tournament. It was Bedoya’s fourth assist, which is tied for the tournament lead.
Sapong capped off the scoring in the 86th minute. Fabian Herbers got the ball to Picault, entering the Fire box from the left. He tapped it to Sapong, who redirected the ball into the net.
After the game, Union head coach Jim Curtin thanked the fans.
[The fans] have a way of making the Open Cup special for us,” said Curtin, who played in three US Open Cup Finals as a defender for the Fire, winning the tournament in 2003 and 2006. “It pushes our guys when we need it. We weren’t sharp with the ball [in the first half]. The players deserve all the credit for the halftime turnaround.”
That turnaround means Philadelphia heads to the Open Cup final for the third time in five years. The team lost consecutive US Open Cup Finals in 2014 and 2015 to the Seattle Sounders and Sporting Kansas City, respectively. The Union is also looking to end a long Open Cup drought for Philadelphia teams. The last team from the City of Brotherly Love to lift the trophy was the Ukrainian Nationals back in 1966.
They become the 19th Eastern Pennsylvania team to reach the US Open Cup Final.
“It is a hard accomplishment,” said Curtin. “It’s not as easy to get to finals as people think. In this life, you never know how many opportunities you’re going to get to play in a final. The next big challenge [for our team] is to lift a trophy. We’ve had about as heartbreaking losses as you could have. You have to go for it and have a team that’s brave and tries to play the right way.”
The Union also extend their tournament unbeaten streak to 14 games (9-0-5, 2-3 PKs), which is the second-longest streak of the Modern Era (1995-present). Matches that end in a penalty kick shootout are officially listed as draws. The club’s home unbeaten streak is now at 11 games, which is also the second-longest streak in the Modern Era.
The Union will not have an opportunity to add to that streak as they will play the Final on the road against on the winner of the Houston Dynamo and Los Angeles FC on Sept. 26.