Houston Dynamo players celebrate winning their Open Cup semifinal. (John Glaser-USA TODAY Sports)

CHICAGO – A new Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup champion will be crowned at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston Sept. 26.

Wednesday night’s semifinal results made sure of that.

Those matches were defined by second-half fireworks as the Philadelphia Union dispatched the Chicago Fire 3-0 in the Eastern semifinal and the Houston Dynamo outlasted Los Angeles FC in penalty kicks, 7-6, after the teams finished 120 minutes tied at 3-3.

Philadelphia. which reached its third Open Cup final in the last five years, will meet the Dynamo, making their first appearance in an Open Cup championship game.

The final will be the first since 2001 (LA Galaxy vs. New England) in which neither finalist has won an Open Cup title.

Philadelphia Union (MLS) 3, Chicago Fire (MLS) 0

A stellar second half from the home side resulted in a three-goal outburst and a ticket to the 2018 U.S. Open Cup championship match at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pa. to reach final in five years.

“I thought that the back line was excellent on the night,” Philadelphia head coach Jim Curtin said. “Still a lot of young guys back there doing a great job. Keegan [Rosenberry], Jack [Elliott], [Auston] Trusty, and Ray [Gaddis] being kind of the anchor and the experienced guy. I think Ray is playing at his highest level, which is a great thing. Just flies under the radar and goes about his business.

“Overall, players win games.”

It was an open game in which both teams had their chances began with the Union mostly trying to hit Chicago on the counter-attack, but some wayward finishing and lack of clear-cut looks left the home side largely on the back foot as Chicago possessed the ball with purpose.

The Fire crafted a handful of quality opportunities through the cunning of Bastian Schweinsteiger and flashy skill of Aleksandar Katai, but goalkeeper Andre Blake was alert and up to every test the Fire put to him. He pushed a stinging Schweinsteiger drive over the crossbar to keep the game scoreless at halftime.

In the second half, the game continued to produce chances for both teams, but it was Fire keeper Richard Sanchez who pulled out more of the heroics – one diving save to deny Union captain Alejandro Bedoya in the 54th minute from point-blank range.

Five minutes later the breakthrough came for the hosts via Cory Burke, who capped off a give-and-go between Bedoya and Borek Dockal. Bedoya then chipped over the Fire back line to an open Burke. The hard-charging Burke doubled his side’s lead in the 77th minute, smashing home a brisk counter attack that started with Blake. With five minutes remaining, substitute C.J. Sapong put the finishing touches on the victory with a tap-in from inside the six-yard box after Fafa Picault carried the ball to the end line, drew out Sanchez and slotted a pass back right into the path of Sapong to cement the win.

“So I was concerned at 1-0  when we missed 3 or 4 pretty good looks,” Curtin said. “Sanchez made a good save on a couple, and you start to have that little bit of doubt creep in. And credit to our players again, they kicked the door down and broke down a Chicago team that obviously had a game also and put a lot of minutes in and pushed the tempo in the second half and maybe ran out of gas a little bit.”

Houston Dynamo (MLS) 3, Los Angeles FC (MLS) 3 (7-6 PKs)

It was a back-and-forth goal affair at BBVA Compass Stadium, where both the Houston Dynamo and Los Angeles FC found scoring chances aplenty as well as more plot twists than a Hollywood thriller in an penalty shootout win for the Texas side, 7-6, after both teams battled to a 3-3 draw after 120 minutes.

“I’m proud of the players,” Houston head coach Wilmer Cabrera said. “I appreciate the support of the fans. So, since 2009 we haven’t been in the final. Houston Dynamo is in thefinal, and it’s well deserved. To the city, to the fans, and its’ well deserved by my players. I’m really happy. I’m proud of them because we’ve been suffering a while.”

LAFC wasted no time seizing the initial advantage. The speedy Diego Rossi opened the scoring six minutes into the contest, bagging the first of his three goals with a fine finish of a Lee Nguyen through ball. After absorbing the initial shock of going behind early, the Dynamo settled into its counter-attacking game plan and evened matters in the 12th minute through an Andrew Wenger header at the back post on an Adam Lundqvist corner kick.

From there, the Dynamo were off to the races, breaking often with pace into the LAFC defensive third and forcing goalkeeper Tyler Miller into numerous saves and interventions. In the 25th minute, Mauro Manotas – the Dynamo’s all-time top scorer in Open Cup play – put the Texans up 2-1, converting a slick through ball from Alberth Elis, who proved a strong and speedy thorn in LAFC’s side.

Riding into the second half with the lead, young Houston substitute Memo Rodriguez looked to have put the game out of reach when he beat Miller at the near post for a 3-1 lead in the 75th minute.

Staring down the end of its Open Cup dream, LA turned to Rossi, who still had enough gas in the tank to haul his side back into the match with an answer to Rodriguez’s goal in the 78th minute. The hosts had squandered goal-scoring chances all evening. Five minutes into the seven minutes of second-half stoppage time, they were made to pay when Rossi completed his hat-trick with a deft header over goalkeeper Joe Willis, who had misjudged the depth of a cross.

While the extra period did produce some scintillating chances for both teams, neither could find a winning strike and after 30 minutes matters had to be settled from the penalty spot. Willis redeemed his mistake from the end of regulation, saving two penalty kicks to play the hero.

“Yeah, it was a crazy game,” Willis said. “We had a lot of back and forth, and a lot of tired legs, but that is how tournaments go.”

 

Semifinal Results

Date Game (home team listed first) Result Venue
Aug. 8 Philadelphia Union (MLS) vs.Chicago Fire (MLS) 3-0 Talen Energy Stadium; Chester, Pa.
Aug. 8 Houston Dynamo (MLS vs. Los Angeles FC (MLS) 3-3 (7-6 PKs) BBVA Compass Stadium; Houston, Texas