Philly Union advances to U.S. Open Cup final
A goal by Sebastien Le Toux lifts Union over Chicago Fire and into title match against Sporting Kansas City.
JOHN McCARTHY said Tuesday that the Union's momentum from a clean sheet against Orlando SC would carry into the team's U.S. Open Cup semifinal matchup with the last-place Chicago Fire.
The rookie goalkeeper's words proved to be prophetic last night as the Union held their opponent scoreless for the second straight game, extinguishing the Fire at PPL Park, 1-0, and advancing to the Open Cup final for the second year in a row.
The Union will host Sporting Kansas City in the championship game on Sept. 30. KC advanced by defeating Real Salt Lake last night, 3-1.
The Union is one win away from bringing the club its first trophy; one that coach Jim Curtin said the fans deserve for their relentless support in a down year.
"First off, I'd like to thank the fans, especially in the river end; I thought they were excellent tonight and they were very loud," Curtin said. "You get into the 85th minute and the guys are fatigued a bit and you start to hear the 'We want the Cup' chants, and I think it pushes them on, so credit to all the fans that came out.
"I thought it was a great environment."
Sebastien Le Toux was the man of the match, causing a sparse crowd to erupt with pent-up excitement as he untied a scoreless match in the 74th minute with a leftfooted strike that squirted past Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
"It's a great feeling," Le Toux said. "Just one more to go and we will have what we want, which is a trophy, so it's one step and we get it. So it's a good feeling right now but we know we still have one more game to win.
"We know we're in a tough season right now and we're not where we want to be, but in the U.S. there are two trophies to win and if we can win one of them I think we would be happy to get one for our fans and for this club."
Le Toux, now the Open Cup's all-time leading goal scorer (15) in the modern professional era, has found the back of the net in three of the Union's previous four matches.
The 31-year-old forward made the Union's stellar defensive performance worthwhile with his game-winning goal.
"It was a bit lucky to kind of get a clear run to [Brian Carroll] and BC kind of played me with one touch, but I don't think he meant to do that and the ball just came to me," Le Toux said, chuckling. "I kind of touched the ball and it went through the leg of one defender, which was very lucky again . . . I just took another touch and it went to my left, which isn't my best foot but I was like, 'All right, let's take a crack at it.'
"It wasn't my prettiest goal, but it went in and I'm going to take it; I'm just happy we won tonight."
Le Toux also mentioned that the Union had trouble adjusting to the Nike-branded ball they were using in the match, which he described as "very light."
It certainly seemed as if the Union was having trouble with the ball on offense in the first half as the team missed two chances from forward C.J. Sapong and one from midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta.
Le Toux and Cristian "Chaco" Maidana made good cross after good cross, but the Union just couldn't seem to capitalize until Le Toux's fortunate run and score late in the second half.
"We were very close a few times to scoring, unfortunately we didn't, but it came in the second half," Le Toux said. "I think we did pretty well in the first half, we were just missing the goal and we played well so we were happy with that; now we just need to be better with our finishing."
McCarthy enjoyed a quiet day on the defensive end, making two saves on six shots, two of which were on target.
The ball rarely entered the Union's box, thanks to a strong defensive outing from Carroll and Michael Lahoud, in addition to an admirable performance from captain Maurice Edu, who played through a groin injury that kept him out of the previous game with Orlando.
"It was great," McCarthy said of the Union's defensive effort. "I think I might have faced one shot in the first half and maybe one shot in the second half and that was pretty much it.
"I'll never complain about that in a game, ever."