Philadelphia Union vs. Sporting Kansas City
2015 US Open Cup Championship Match
September 30 | 7 pm ET | PPL Park, Chester, Pa.
TV: ESPN2, WatchESPN, UDN
The 102nd edition of the United States’ oldest soccer competition comes to a head Wednesday when the Philadelphia Union play host to Sporting Kansas City at PPL Park. The Union are making their second straight appearance in the final, falling last year to the Seattle Sounders, as they go for the club’s first trophy. Sporting, meanwhile, are making their second Cup final appearance in the last four years after taking the 2012 crown. Six players from that team are still a part of the club: Chance Myers, Seth Sinovic, Matt Besler, Graham Zusi, Roger Espinoza and Paulo Nagamura.
The Union advanced to the final thanks to a 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire in the semifinals on Sebastien Le Toux’s 15th USOC goal, the most by a player in tournament history. Sporting rode a 3-1 semifinals win over Real Salt Lake into the title match thanks to goals from Soni Mustivar, Benny Feilhaber and Krisztian Nemeth.
THE FIRST IS THE HARDEST: The Union have been around for just six years, but regardless, a first trophy would be a special moment for the club. That’s especially true considering their near miss in last year’s final that was decided on two Sounders goals in extra time.
“Winning a trophy does kind of solidify what your team’s about and gives a little bit more of an identity,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said.
SPORTING DYNASTY? Kansas City, on the other hand, have quite the crowded trophy case. They’ve won the MLS Cup twice (2000, 2013), the Supporters’ Shied in 2000 and the USOC twice as well (2004, 2012). A win in this year’s title game would give Sporting three trophies in the last four seasons, a level of success in that span only eclipsed by the LA Galaxy’s three MLS Cups.
GOALKEEPING QUESTION: The Union’s Curtin has a question to answer between the posts, with John McCarthy having been excellent in goal in four previous USOC matches and Andre Blake having solidified the No. 1 job after his best match in a Philadelphia shirt since being drafted No. 1 overall in the 2014 SuperDraft with a 10-save performance over the weekend.
“You have to select the team that gives you the best chance to win,” Curtin said.
ALL HANDS ON DECK: Both the Union and Sporting had league games to contend with before they could turn their attention to Wednesday’s USOC final. They both seemingly had one eye on Wednesday, fielding reserve-filled lineups in games that both ended in 1-1 draws, undoubtedly pointing toward a championship match with plenty of talent on the field. It was somewhat of a surprise for Kansas City, considering their match against the Seattle Sounders carried heavy Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoff implications, while the Union's postseason chances are somewhat thin as the ninth-place team in the Eastern Conference.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
SEBASTIEN LE TOUX, PHILADELPHIA: The veteran Frenchman scored his USOC-record 15th goal in Philadelphia’s 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire in the semifinals. He went only 45 minutes over the weekend, so he should be fresh, and is also enjoying a strong run of form with two assists in his last two starts.
DOM DWYER, KANSAS CITY: He came off the bench over the weekend to score the equalizer against New England, his second in his last three outings and third in last six. The hard-nosed forward also has a knack for showing up on the big stage, scoring the winning goal in the Eastern Conference Championship against the Houston Dynamo to send Sporting to the MLS Cup. He also scored a club-record four goals to give Orlando City SC a 7-4 win the USL Championship while on loan from Kansas City.