Preview U.S. Open Cup Final: Dynamo vs. the Union
The U.S. Open Cup Final is finally upon us. This Wednesday will be the Dynamo’s first chance to play in the final for the Cup and the hometown crowd will be hoping to bring home the silverware. This is especially true given Houston’s poor performance in league play this year. On the other side, Philadelphia is hoping that a win here could kick-start a final push into the playoffs leaving the Union as the team in form going into competition for the MLS Cup.
Most weeks this section would be dedicated to how each team played in the last match, but that’s a fool’s folly this week since regular season form hasn’t been a huge indicator for Cup performance this season. Instead, it’s important to look at how each team approached their last match in terms of player rest. A lens that’s more interesting since Houston and Philly went in opposite directions. Playing a nil-nil draw with Orlando this last Saturday, Houston essentially played the normal starting 11. A strategy that might be due to the fact that Houston isn’t mathematically eliminated from the playoffs…. yet. Never mind that the climb to a playoff spot has turned from a hill to a mountain.
Either way, Wilmer Cabrera ran out all the typical starters for at least 45 minutes, including Cabezas who recently returned from injury. This was, and still is, a game plan that I struggle to get behind. On the flip side, Jim Curtin’s Union sat a significant number of starters in their Sunday win over SKC. This included midfielder Alejandro Bedoya as well as forwards Cory Burke and Fafa Picault. Three players that are not only quite good but all three managed to score last time the teams faced in July. All that said, it’s hard not to think that Philadelphia will come into the Final with a personnel advantage.
The Last Meeting
Tensions were high when Philadelphia left Houston on the night of July 25th. Though the 3-1 win against the Dynamo seemed decisive, many thought the match was a toss-up until Tomas Martinez was given an unnecessary and controversial red card in the 59th minute. Many fans felt cheated that night but there are still lessons to be learned from the match. Even without the red card, the Dynamo were still extremely aggressive during the match, collecting eight more fouls than Philly. A lot of these fouls came from mistakes in midfield and simply sloppy play. This is something that the Dynamo have been guilty of all season and often leads to the game spiraling out of control. Houston was also fairly easy to break down in the back, especially when Beasley or Machado were caught too high up on the wings.
What To Watch For
The first thing to look for will be Wilmer Cabrera’s starting 11. Specifically, how the back line ends up looking given that the 4-3-3 that was employed against Orlando had the wing-backs holding an exceptionally high line. Personally, I’d love to see Lundqvist starting as the left wing-back for the night, though I’m skeptical that will happen. It will also be interesting to see who the two midfielders are between Ceren, B. Garcia, and Cabezas. Part of me doubts that Cabezas will be starting but Cabrera has done more surprising things before. On Philadelphia’s side, I’m curious to see how much Curtin commits to the Final. Given that the Union are still in the thick of the playoff race, I wonder how many starters will actually end up playing the full 90.
If Philly isn’t going to commit fully to this match it would make sense for Dockal to be on the bench to start the match. Besides the decisions made before the first whistle, Manotas is currently playing really well and scored last time the two teams faced. Also, every goal that Manotas puts in till the end of the season adds to his Dynamo record for the most goals scored in all competitions. As already mentioned, Corey Burke and company are very good players to watch for. But one thing I’m interested in is if Jay Simpson, who scored the brace against SKC on Sunday, will end up making an appearance. Either way, no matter what the lineups look like and who performs well or doesn’t: it will be a heck of a time seeing the Dynamo play in a Final for silverware.