The 105th edition of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup are down to the final four as the tournament’s semifinal round kicks off on Wednesday night. The Semifinals feature three teams that are seeking their first-ever US Open Cup title and a fourth who are trying to make history by lifting the trophy for the fifth time.
No team in the history of the tournament has reached the Semifinals more than the Chicago Fire and they have their eyes on a fifth US Open Cup championship. However, they haven’t lifted the trophy since 2006 and if they are able to defeat the Philadelphia Union on the road on Wednesday night, they would host the championship game on Oct. 3.
The Fire will travel to face the Philadelphia Union who are trying to become the first Philadelphia area team to win the tournament since 1966 (Ukrainian Nationals). The Union have had two golden opportunities to win their first major trophy when they hosted the 2014 and the 2015 US Open Cup Final, but each time they lost a game that required extra time. In 2014, they lost to the Seattle Sounders 3-1 in extra time and in 2015 they lost in a penalty kick shootout to Sporting Kansas City.
In the other side of the bracket, the Houston Dynamo will not only try to win the US Open Cup for the first time, but they will try to become the first team from South Texas to win the tournament. They will square off with Los Angeles FC, a MLS expansion team who are looking to win a trophy in the club’s first season. The winner of this game will get to host the US Open Cup Final if the Philadelphia Union defeat the Chicago Fire.
There will be no television coverage of either game, but there will be an online stream available on USSoccer.com.
Check out a preview and video links for each game below:
* 2018 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup schedule, results
* 2018 US Open Cup statistical leaders
* 2018 US Open Cup Player of the Round winners
* 2018 US Open Cup qualifying Round 1 review
* 2018 US Open Cup qualifying Round 2 review
* 2018 US Open Cup qualifying Round 3 review
* 2018 US Open Cup qualifying Round 4 review
* 2018 US Open Cup qualifying Round 5 review
* 2018 US Open Cup qualifying Quarterfinal review
* Milwaukee’s Bavarian SC qualify for 2019 US Open Cup by winning Amateur Cup title
* Which PDL teams will qualify for 2019 US Open Cup?
* US Soccer legend Walter Bahr leaves behind Hall of Fame legacy
* How amateurs Dallas Roma FC beat World Cup champs, an MLS team and it cost $75,000
* Things you should know about the Semifinals of the US Open Cup
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BROADCAST: ONLINE VIDEO STREAM
By Michael Berton
Four-time Open Cup winners Chicago Fire are two wins away from a record-tying fifth championship, but in their way are the Philadelphia Union, unbeaten in 13-straight Open Cup games and a two-time runner-up (2014, 2015). The Union is seeking its third Final appearance in the last five years and trying to end Philadelphia’s lengthy Open Cup title drought.
HOW THEY GOT HERE
Round 4: 5-0 win vs. Richmond Kickers (USL)
Round 5: 2-1 vs. New York Red Bulls (MLS)
Quarterfinals: 1-0 vs. Orlando City SC (MLS)
Semifinals: vs. Chicago Fire (MLS)
Philadelphia’s 13-game unbeaten streak (8-0-5, 2-3 PKs) is the second-longest in the Modern Era. (NOTE: Matches that end in penalty kicks are officially listed as draws.) That streak includes three victories in 2018 edition of the US Open Cup.
In the Fourth Round, the Union easily dispatched the Richmond Kickers (USL), scoring all its goals in the first 50 minutes in a 5-0 win. In the Round of 16, the Union hosted the New York Red Bulls for the fourth year in a row in Open Cup play (at the time, this was the first time two teams have met four straight years). On the back of two second half goals from Haris Medunjanin and Cory Burke (both assisted by Alejandro Bedoya), Philadelphia earned a 2-1 victory. A Quarterfinal matchup with first time Open Cup opponents Orlando City SC proved to be no problem for the Union. Hosting its third game in a row, Philadelphia rode a fourth minute Alejandro Bedoya goal to earn a comfortable 1-0 win.
The Chicago Fire started its quest for a fifth US Open Cup title with two games on the road.
The Fire were taken to a shootout in the Fourth Round against Columbus Crew SC after a 2-2 draw. The shootout made it all the way to the goalkeepers, with Fire goalie Richard Sanchez scoring the go-ahead PK, then stopping his counterpart’s shot, to give his team a 10-9 penalty kick win. Chicago then pulled off one of the bigger upsets of this year’s tournament with a 1-0 win over Atlanta United. Facing the MLS leaders and their 41,012 rabid fans (the largest crowd to ever watch a US Open Cup game in the 105-year history of the tournament), Nemanja Nikolic netted his third goal of the competition in the 54th minute en route to a 1-0 victory. The Fire then avoided an upset in the Quarterfinals, defeating Louisville City FC, 4-0, to advance to their all-time record 13th Lamar Hunt US Open Cup semifinal.
The Union’s uneven season continued since its Quarterfinal win over Orlando City. After losing at home, 3-1, to the Los Angeles Galaxy, Philadelphia went on the road for two games. The team earned a 3-1 win at the Houston Dynamo on July 25, but then fell to the Portland Timbers, 3-0, on Aug. 4 in a game where they rested a number of starters to prepare for Wednesday’s Open Cup game. They currently sit in 7th place in the Eastern Conference, two points out of the playoffs.
Chicago have not won a MLS game since June 30, losing six in a row overall and three in a row since beating Louisville City in the Quarterfinals. Since that Quarterfinal win, the Fire lost 2-1 at home to Toronto FC on July 21, 3-0 at Toronto FC on July 28, then 2-1 at Real Salt Lake on Aug. 4. Chicago is next-to-last in the Eastern Conference, six points behind the final playoff spot in the conference.
US OPEN CUP HISTORY
Philadelphia Union (MLS)
7th US Open Cup appearance
Overall: 15-3-6 (3-3 PK)
Home: 14-2-2 (1-1 PK)
vs. MLS: 7-3-5 (2-3 PK)
Best finish: Runner-Up (2014, 2015)
Chicago Fire (MLS)
21st US Open Cup appearance
Overall: 41-14-6 (4-2 PK)
Away: 15-13-3 (2-1 PK)
vs. MLS: 22-9-2 (2-0 PK)
Best finish: 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006 champions
The Union are on a 13-game unbeaten streak in the Open Cup (matches that end in penalty kicks are officially listed as draws), and made the Semifinals for the first time since 2015. After falling in consecutive US Open Cup Finals in 2014 and 2015 to the Seattle Sounders and Sporting Kansas City, respectively, the Union have been ousted in penalty kicks the last two years (vs. New England Revolution in 2016, vs. New York Red Bulls in 2017). In addition to trying to win the club’s first major trophy, the Union are trying to break an Open Cup title drought for the city of Philadelphia. The last team from the City of Brotherly Love to lift the trophy was the Ukrainian Nationals back in 1966.
The Chicago Fire are the most successful MLS team in US Open Cup history, and one of the most successful all-time. They are one of eight clubs in the history of the 105-year-old US Open Cup to win four tournament championships (1998, 2000, 2003, 2006), but they have not lifted the trophy since 2006. No team in the history of the tournament has more Semifinals appearances (13) than the Fire, and only two teams (Kutis SC, FC Dallas) have more Quarterfinal appearances than Chicago’s 14. They are also the only club in the history of the tournament to reach four consecutive Semifinals twice (2003-06, 2013-16).
If the Fire reach the championship game, they would tie Maccabee AC (Los Angeles, Calif.) for the all-time record for most US Open Cup Final appearances with seven.
This is the second Open Cup meeting between the Union and Fire, and both meetings have come in the Semifinals. The first took place in 2015. The Union became the first Philadelphia team since 1964 to make back-to-back Finals by beating the Fire 1-0. In the 74th minute, Sebastien Le Toux added to his legendary Open Cup resume with his Modern Era record 15th career tournament goal. Le Toux just recently became Philadelphia’s first Ring of Honor inductee.
In MLS play, Philadelphia holds a narrow edge over Chicago at 9-8-5. The Union won both regular season meetings this year, including a 3-1 home win on May 30 and a 4-3 road win on July 11. The Union will be happy to host, as they hold a 6-2-2 record against the Fire at home, and earned a victory over Chicago at home in their only Open Cup meeting. In Open Cup play, the Union are 14-2-2 (1-1 PKs) all-time in tournament play at Talen Energy Stadium.
The Union are led by Borek Dockal, who leads the team in both goals and assists, with five and nine respectively. Haris Medunjanin and Alejandro Bedoya marshall the midfield, while they are led from the back by goalie Andre Blake. Cory Burke, who played big roles in the Union’s Open Cup wins, is tied for the team lead with five goals, and had a two-goal performance in his team’s last meeting against the Chicago Fire.
The Fire have been led to the Semifinals by star striker Nemanja Nikolic, who is tied for second place in the tournament with four goals and he has scored 10 goals in league play. Aleksander Katai is second on the team with nine league goals. The legendary Bastian Schweinsteiger leads his team with six assists. Richard Sanchez has 73 saves this season, and led Chicago to its penalty kick victory over Columbus Crew SC in the Fourth Round by making a pair of saves and also scoring the game-winning spot kick in the shootout.
As of the Sunday forecast, it will be hot and humid in the Philadelphia area with a 50% chance for thunderstorms.
BROADCAST: ONLINE VIDEO STREAM
By Thomas Hodul
The western Semifinal of the US Open Cup pits two sides both trying to reach the Final for the first time in their respective club’s history as the Houston Dynamo host 2018 MLS expansion side Los Angeles FC. The Dynamo have twice reached the Semifinals twice (2006, 2009). First, in 2006, they lost 3-1 to the LA Galaxy and then again in 2009 when they lost 2-1 in extra time to the eventual champion Seattle Sounders.
On the other side of the field, LAFC are making their first run in the tournament as a club, but are led by a man in Bob Bradley who is no stranger to winning this tournament, having done so twice with the Chicago Fire in 1998 and in 2000. Much like this years LAFC squad, Chicago was a MLS expansion side in 1998 meaning not only has Bob won this tournament twice, but he did so with an expansion side once already as well.
HOW THEY GOT HERE
Round 4: 5-0 home win vs. NTX Rayados (USASA)
Round 5: 1-0 home win vs. Minnesota United FC (MLS)
Quarterfinals: 4-2 home win vs. Sporting KC (MLS)
Semifinals: home vs. Los Angeles FC (MLS)
Houston’s run to the Semifinals began with a comfortable 5-0 win over Open Division qualifiers North Texas Rayados. The Dynamo were led on the night by two goals from home grown product Memo Rodriguez and two goals from Aldo Quintanilla. Next, they bested fellow MLS side Minnesota United as Mauro Manotas scored the lone goal to help his side advance 1-0. They were then able to beat the defending champions Sporting Kansas City in the Quarterfinals by a score of 4-2 as Manotas and Romell Quioto both scored twice.
LAFC began their run to the Semifinals by knocking out USL side Fresno FC at home by a score of 2-0. Diego Rossi scored the first goal that night for LAFC before Latif Blessing, champion with Sporting KC last year, added a second. In the Second Round, they faced a difficult Sacramento Republic FC (USL) side who were coming off an upset over the Seattle Sounders in the previous round. LAFC twice had to come from behind to eventually win 3-2 when Man of the Match Diego Rossi, found Blessing for the winner in the 89th minute.
In the Quarterfinals, LAFC defeated the Portland Timbers by the score of 3-2 in a game that would be more memorable by the drama that came after the game. However controversy would ensue post game when the Timbers filed a complaint with the US Open Cup committee over LAFC’s roster, leaving LAFC’s position in the Semifinals in doubt. In the end, the protest filed by Portland over an ineligible player fielded by LAFC was withdrawn as it was deemed “a good faith misunderstanding among U.S. Soccer, Major League Soccer and Los Angeles Football Club.”
Houston currently sit in 10th place in the 12-team MLS Western Conference. They are coming off three consecutive league losses including a 1-0 loss last weekend to Sporting Kansas City with their last point coming in a 1-1 draw in the Texas Derby to FC Dallas back on July 21.
LAFC has hit their first major bump in the road in their inaugural season, as they haven’t won in league play since July 7. They most recently lost away to the New York Red Bulls 2-1 this past weekend. Before that, they blew a 2-0 lead late to rival LA Galaxy to drop two points, and before that they were thrashed 5-1 by Minnesota United. However, the team is still comfortably in a playoff spot as they currently sit in fourth place in the MLS Western Conference.
US OPEN CUP HISTORY
13th Open Cup Appearance
Overall: 15-10-1 (0-1 PK)
vs. MLS: 5-8-0
Best finish: Semifinals (2006, 2009)
Los Angeles FC (MLS)
1st US Open Cup appearance
vs. MLS: 1-0-0
Best finish: N/A
Los Angeles FC, an MLS expansion team, is experiencing the US Open Cup for the first time. Their leader is a two-time US Open Cup champion in head coach Bob Bradley who guided the expansion Chicago Fire to a tournament title in 1998, and another one in the club’s third year in 2000. He even guided the Metrostars (New York Red Bulls) to the US Open Cup Final in 2003 … losing to the Chicago Fire at Giants Stadium.
Houston is also seeking their first US Open Cup Final appearance as the Dynamo have knocked on the door twice. In 2006, their first season after moving from San Jose, the Dynamo reached the final four only to fall to the Los Angeles Galaxy, 3-1. They would return to the Semifinals in 2009 and would lose a tight extra time battle on the road against the Seattle Sounders.
Aside from those two runs to the Semifinals, Houston’s Open Cup success has been fairly limited. They would not win multiple games in a single tournament until they reached the Quarterfinals in 2015 and 2016 only to lose to Sporting Kansas City and FC Dallas, respectively. Both teams would go on to win the tournament. Last year, they were eliminated by Kansas City again, this time in the Round of 16 as Sporting would also move on to win the Open Cup.
The last time these two teams matched up it was the Houston Dynamo who came back from 2-0 down scoring in the 94th and 96th minute to earn the comeback win against LAFC who has all to often this season blown multiple-goal leads. To this point that is the only meeting between the two sides as their next MLS match doesn’t happen until the end of October.
Houston’s players to watch include Mauro Manotas who has score three times in three games so far in this year’s Open Cup. Manotas is the club’s all-time leading scorer (7 goals) in US Open Cup play and he scored a pair of goals in the Dynamo’s 4-2 win over Sporting Kansas City in the Quarterfinals. Romell Quioto also scored two goals against Sporting and was voted TheCup.us Player of the Round in the Quarterfinals for his two-goal effort against Sporting KC.
For LAFC players to watch are Latif Blessing who has said that this is his favorite tournament, having won it last year with Sporting KC. Latif helped LAFC reach this round with a goal in Round 4 and 5. The other player of note is Benny Feilhaber, who will be looking to lift the Open Cup Trophy for a third time in four years.
Clear skies are in the forecast but it will be warm and humid in Houston (nothing new to Houstonians).