Goal-scoring hero Mauro Manotas celebrates winning the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)
HOUSTON — Sitting in 10th place in the Western Conference, the Houston Dynamo is a longshot to reach the MLS playoffs.
Yet, the Dynamo will participate in next year’s concacaf Champions League.
That’s because Houston produced an emphatic 3-0 victory over the Philadelphia Unin at BBVA Compass Stadium.
Mauro Manotas scored in the fourth and 25th minutes for the Dynamo, which also was aided by an own goal by the Union’s Auston Trusty in the 65th minute.
Houston’s path to the championship started in June when the Dynamo defeated Minnesota United in the opening round of 16.
With 16,060 fans braving the sporadic elements, the Dynamo went to work early, pressing for a goal from the opening whistle. It didn’t take long for a goal to come, and at first, it seemed that the Union had scored the opener in the third minute, but Fafa Picault’s looping header over Houston goalkeeper Joe Willis was ruled out for offside.
Seconds later, the night’s winning combination clicked as the speedy Alberth Elis was chipped in behind the Philadelphia backline by Óscar Boniek García. Elis cut in from the right sideline and chopped a cross through the goalmouth past two Union defenders and the outstretched glove of goalkeeper Andre Blake to the head of Manotas, who dropped to his knees in order to guide his header into the roof of the net in just the fourth minute of play.
Unfazed by the early concession, the Union put their foot on the ball and knocked it around the park, looking to find a crack in the Houston defense. Despite garnering more than 65 percent of possession, Philly was not able to carve out many clear-cut goal scoring chances, a marked contrast to the clinical finishing from the Dynamo, who doubled their lead through Manotas’ second strike in the 25th minute.
Against the run of play, Houston counter attacked via a surging run from Manotas, who once again received the crucial pass from Elis. This time however, the young Colombian had more work to do to evade both Union center backs after cutting in from the right wing and striking a well-placed shot from just outside the top of the box past a sprawling Blake, off the left post and into the net.
Approaching half time with a 2-0 lead, Houston lost veteran center back Phillipe Senderos to injury, but Kevin Garcia ably stepped into the backline to help the Dynamo keep the visitors from threatening a comeback.
Although the game opened up in the second half for the Union, they we’re unable to capitalize on their opportunities to truly test Willis in the Houston net. The final dagger then came in the 65th minute on yet another Dynamo counter. Romell Quioto was played in on goal and his low drive was parried by Blake into the path of recovering defender Auston Trusty, whose unfortunate attempt to clear billowed the back of his own goal.
Philadelphia head coach Jim Curtin brought on attackers Jay Simpson and David Accam, but neither could find the cutting edge to help draw the visitors back into the game. It was a cruel end for the men from Chester, who have now reached three Open Cup Finals in the last five years but remain in search of a first title for the club that was founded back in 2010.
For Houston, which had the fortune of playing every one of its 2018 U.S. Open Cup matches at home in Texas, the title represents the club’s first silverware since 2007 when they won the second of their two MLS crowns. It also earns the club $300,000 in prize money and a berth in next year’s Concacaf Champions League.