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Winning move: Union coach won't let Lahoud rest

Coach Jim Curtin refused to take Michael Lahoud out of the game and it was one of the reasons the Union have earned their second straight trip to the U.S. Open Cup final after a 1-0 semifinal win over the Chicago Fire Wednesday at PPL Park.

Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin (R) and defender Fabinho (33) celebrate their victory against the Chicago Fire in the U.S. Open Cup Semifinal match at PPL Park. The Union won 1-0. (Bill Streicher/USA Today)
Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin (R) and defender Fabinho (33) celebrate their victory against the Chicago Fire in the U.S. Open Cup Semifinal match at PPL Park. The Union won 1-0. (Bill Streicher/USA Today)Read more

Coach Jim Curtin refused to take Michael Lahoud out of the game and it was one of the reasons the Union have earned their second straight trip to the U.S. Open Cup final after a 1-0 semifinal win over the Chicago Fire Wednesday at PPL Park.

This was only Lahoud's second game back since he suffered a hip pointer on May 2. The first came in Saturday's scoreless draw at Orlando City when he played 79 minutes. This time he went the full 90.

"Michael was really good tonight and he asked to come out over the 70th minute and I said, 'You are not coming out' and that is how that went," Curtin said.

Lahoud was a little surprised, but in the end he was happy to be overruled by his coach.

"I am glad he didn't take me out because it is a confidence booster," Lahoud said. "It was the first 90-minute game I played in over three months and I am just looking to build on it."

The last time Lahoud played the entire game was April 25 in a 4-1 Major League Soccer loss at Columbus.

Lahoud and fellow midfielder Brian Carroll did an outstanding job, especially on the defensive end in a game in which the Union outshot the Fire, 11-3.

Needless to say, after the game, Lahoud was clearly gassed.

"I am pretty tired but I am a fit person," Lahoud said. "Credit goes to Maurice Edu, Richie [Marquez] and Brian [Carroll] for keeping me in it and pushing me to do my job."

The fact that Lahoud has returned and the Union have posted two consecutive shutouts is no coincidence.

"With Michael being healthy, it gives you a little defense-first mind-set," Curtin said.

Lahoud is looking forward to the Open Cup final on Sept. 30 when the Union will host Sporting Kansas City. Lahoud and the rest of the team are looking for redemption after last year's 3-1 Open Cup final loss in extra time to the visiting Seattle Sounders.

For one night, the Union could forget they are in ninth place in the 10-team MLS Eastern Conference.

"A lot of things have happened from injuries to whatever this year but it really shows the strength of our group that whenever our backs are against the wall, we find a way to climb out of it," Lahoud said. "I think that was on display the last two games and we don't have any intention of stopping here."