Philadelphia Union progressed to the US Open Cup final for the first time with a penalty shoot-out success over FC Dallas at Toyota Park on Tuesday.
Amobi Okugo’s opener was cancelled out late on by Fabian Castillo, but the Union, who had never previously beaten their hosts, won with two spot-kick saves from Zac MacMath.
The Burn had been champions in 1997 and played in three finals, but this victory represents the furthest that their Eastern opponents have ventured in their three-year history in the cup.
Dallas came into this clash just five points off the pace for the Supporters’ Shield in the Major League Soccer standings, thanks to an 11-match undefeated streak in all competitions. That run included a 2-1 win against Philadelphia in Texas – the only reverse of Jim Curtin’s two-month spell in charge of the Pennsylvanians.
Despite the fine form of the two teams, the opening ten minutes were particularly scrappy, with the only action of note a speculative Blas Perez penalty appeal that was immediately snubbed by World Cup referee Mark Geiger.
In the 13th minute, the visitors then created their first chances, but Raul Fernandez intercepted Conor Casey’s blast and Andrew Wenger was inaccurate in the execution of his effort moments later.
An attempt from Perez was comfortably gathered by MacMath, and Castillo wasted a fine shooting opportunity before another Casey centre was met by Fernandez.
Blazed drives at either end saw the score-sheet remained blank heading into the interval, but within two minutes of the restart, the Zulus were ahead.
Top scorer Sebastian le Toux turned provider as he ran beyond the home backline and squared for Okugo to steer past Fernandez. Incredibly, of only five professional strikes, this was the 23-year-old’s third against the Hoops.
Wenger quickly almost doubled the lead, rattling the post, but Oscar Pareja’s Burn were soon on the attack. After substitute Ryan Hollinshead had tempted MacMath from his goalline, Perez had a sight of the target, though his delicate lob drifted over the crossbar.
Next, it was the turn of Colombian youth international Castillo, who had scored in each of the three preceding rounds, but the goalkeeper twice raced out to make successful challenges. The third time though, the Dallas man was stronger, and beat MacMath to pass into the net for his tenth of the year.
With the game reaching its closing stages, Tesho Akindele fired straight at the Union stopper, and only a stunning save prevented Castillo from adding another as he skipped away from the defence.
This resulted in a corner, but the scramble that followed Michel’s delivery saw Perez repeatedly denied, and the tie progressed to extra-time, meaning that Philadelphia are still yet to win on the road in regulation time in this competition.
MacMath continued to be busy, immediately stopping from Perez, and his opposite number then repelled a Danny Cruz shot. As play ebbed and flowed, Hollinshead concluded a lovely move with a slice wide of goal, while Castillo’s direct running made him a constant threat.
Fernandez had to stay on alert, though, just about helping Brian Brown’s low finish onto the upright, as well as keeping out Maurice Edu’s header after Castillo had again shot and MacMath had again saved.
The stalemate unbroken, a shoot-out began. Specialist Michel, Sheanon Williams, rookie Akindele and Vincent Nogueira all converted from 12 yards to make it 2-2. However, MacMath beat away Perez’s spot-kick, and after Cristian Maidana, Zach Loyd and Edu had all scored, the Floridian made another stop from Victor Ulloa to secure the win.
As the Union now prepare to battle for their first major honour at their PPL Park home, Dallas’ attentions must turn solely to their Western Conference play-off push.