Performances can be immortalized when trophies are at stake. Under the grand spotlight of a final, every player and coach has the chance to raise their perception, stature and prestige. Who can gain the most on Wednesday night (8 pm ET; ESPN2) when the Union face the Dynamo for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final?
Born and raised just 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia and played his college ball at Villanova, Curtin has another opportunity to be the hometown hero to deliver the first major trophy in Union history.
Curtin has been here before, which makes Wednesday night all the more crucial.
In 2014, Curtin led the Union to the Open Cup final against the Seattle Sounders in his first season in charge. His side scored first then conceded an equalizer before losing 3-1 after extra time. A year later, the Union again found themselves in the final and, again, scored the first goal before heading to extra time. More painfully, the Union lost to Sporting Kansas City in penalties.
Both finals were lost on home soil, but with this year's edition in Houston, will the third time be the charm for Curtin?
The Dynamo haven't featured too heavily in nationally televised games this season, and Elis hasn't put up gaudy bottom-line numbers in MLS (11g/9a), so it's possible that many are unaware of just how good the Honduran winger is.
That can change on Wednesday.
Electric on the ball, Elis has the chance to produce a lasting moment on Wednesday. The 22-year-old has upped his end product this season and will look to kick on further in 2019.
But Elis, with no goals and an assist over two starts in this year's U.S. Open Cup run, hasn't been the club's best player in this competition. That's been...
Manotas has scored four goals in three starts, leading the Dynamo to the final. A goal on Wednesday would put him in a three-way tie for leading scorer for the competition, with LAFC's Diego Rossi and Miami United's David Ochoa, and two goals would give him the outright lead.
The 23-year-old is enjoying his best season as a professional. On top of his Open Cup exploits, Manotas has scored a team-high 14 goals in 28 appearances in league play.
Bedoya continues to raise his game, and in turn, the game of his teammates.
The Union captain leads a midfield unit that has been the impetus behind his side's surge as the season wore on. The spotlight of a cup final should suit him quite well.
In the Open Cup, Bedoya has been stellar. He's contributed a goal and four assists in three games. He's ready to lift a trophy.
“We’ve been saying it all year: We can play with anybody,” Bedoya said Monday. “It’s one thing to say it, but we really do believe we can play with anybody.”
Struggling in the league, Cabrera can secure a fresh batch of goodwill with a U.S. Open Cup triumph.
If the Dynamo prevail, Cabrera and his squad will get the opportunity to prove themselves on the continental stage. With a cadre of players with experience playing in Central America, the Dynamo may be uniquely qualified to excel in the Concacaf Champions League.
And, again, above all else, it's a trophy. It's the most simple, and most boring, analysis but it cannot be stressed enough. It's all about winning trophies and Cabrera is one win away from delivering some hardware despite a hugely disappointing MLS campaign.