U.S. Open Cup Final preview: Philadelphia Union vs. Sporting KC

IMAGE, USSOCCER.COM

by RYAN BRISTER

What started with two games between amateur teams in late April will end tonight at PPL Park in Philadelphia. The Union are hosting Sporting Kansas City in the final of the 2015 U.S. Open Cup.

The winners will have their name engraved on the Dewar Cup, which was first awarded in 1913. More pressingly, they will receive $250,000 and a berth in next year’s CONCACAF Champions League.

In a rare bout of publicity for the tournament, the game will be broadcast on ESPN2 and Univision Deportes at 7 p.m. The final has been shown on GolTV the last three years, which in practical terms meant it was only available on shoddy internet streams.

Philadelphia Union

How they got here: The Union’s Open Cup run began in tense, dramatic fashion against the USL’s Rochester Rhinos. John McCarthy made multiple big saves to keep his former team scoreless, then saved three out of the four penalties he faced in the shootout. In the fifth round, they overcame an early red card and came back to DC United 2-1.

Roch

In a Tuesday afternoon quarterfinal at Red Bull Arena, the Union again spent most of the match with just 10 men. The Red Bulls led 34-8 in shots, but needed a stoppage time equalizer to force extra time. Again, McCarthy stood tall, and the Union advanced in a shootout.

Philly returned home for the semifinal, and Sebastien Le Toux’s second half goal provided the difference on their way to tonight.

Open Cup history: This is the second year in a row that the Union will host the final; they lost in extra time to Seattle in 2014. A win tonight would claim the first trophy in their six seasons.  Beyond MLS, the Philadelphia area has a rich history in the Open Cup. Bethlehem Steel won the tournament a record five times in the 1910s and 1920s, and the Philadelphia Ukrainian Nationals won four times in the 1960s.

Sporting Kansas City

How they got here: SKC hasn’t had to leave Sporting Park so far in their cup run. They started off with a narrow 1-0 win against St. Louis FC in the fourth round. They had an easier time with FC Dallas, who they demolished 6-2. Dom Dwyer had four of those goals, including a first-half hat trick.

SKCOC

In the quarterfinals, Sporting was given a scare by Houston. The Dynamo took the lead in the second half, despite being down a man, but three goals in the final 20 minutes saw the hosts through. Similarly, two late goals helped KC beat Salt Lake in the semifinal.

Open Cup history: Kansas City’s MLS franchise has won the Open Cup twice, first as the Wizards in 2004, and again as Sporting KC in 2012. Both victories came at home; they have not reached the final otherwise.


Kansas City hosted Philadelphia in April of this season, and they played an exceedingly silly, entertaining game of soccer. SKC won 3-2 on two stoppage-time goals. Set pieces and goalkeeping errors accounted for all the goals. Neither keeper who started that day is still in MLS.

To the extent that the stakes of a cup final can be raised, they are higher for the Union tonight. They are on track to miss the playoffs again, and tonight’s result could be the difference between Curtin keeping and losing his job. At home, having lost at home last year, their desire will be that much higher.

SKC enters tonight in more complicated territory. They should be the favorites based on team quality and having won earlier this season. But it is a midweek road game with a trip to Portland looming. Sporting’s playoff status isn’t yet assured, and Vermes took a big risk by resting key players for Sunday’s Western Conference game against Seattle. They have struggled lately, with just one win in their last eight games. A win tonight could be a much-needed boost of momentum down the stretch and into the playoffs.