By Will Martin
The 101st version of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup tournament has had its share of players, plays and surprises.
Oscar Pareja’s kids playing their hearts out to reach the Semi-Final played on August 12 at Toyota Center in Frisco under mild and fall-like conditions.
A rematch with the Philadelphia Union for the right to host a Finals game against the winner of the Seattle Sounders and Chicago Fire.
It took 120 minutes and a slew of penalty kicks to determine a winner. Despite emptying everything from the proverbial sink it was the Union who prevailed by a 4-3 count in penalty kicks.
Zac MacMath successfully made two valiant stops of kicks by Blas Perez and Victor Ulloa in the PK round.
The first half was a scoreless affair as each team had opportunities to draw first blood. Both Raul Fernandez and MacMath were equal to the challenge of defending.
The Union struck first in the 47th minute when Amobi Okugo was given a fast feed from Sebastian Letoux after a penalty kick from Vincent Nogueria. Okugo’s kick flew past an out manned Matador and Philly was up 1-0.
Even with Team Pareja bitten by a set of injuries (Adam Moffat, Walker Zimmerman, and Mauro Diaz) FC Dallas did an admirable job of keeping their wits about them and not allowing another score.
Clearances, Fouls, and Duels Won being almost even-steven it came to the one guy who seems to thrive when playing under the Cup format. Fabian Castillo would successfully tie things up at 1-all, Blas Perez would help on a quick breakaway.
The ensuing chase for the ball by Zac MacMath and Castillo favored Fabian. MacMath miscalculated and Castillo hit the net in the 81st minute to send 4,236 fans into delirium.
As time wound down near the end of regulation there were multiple scoring chances by FC Dallas. Minute 87 a left footed shot attempt by Castillo was blocked .
Matt Hedges had a chance to be the hero in the 88th minute with an assist from Blas Perez. His shot was blocked.
Union strike Raymon Gaddis in the 84th minute had an opportunity to end the semi-final. Enter Raul Fernandez with the block.
Into the shootout mode we went. Knotted up at 1-1 after 120 minutes and with Oscar Pareja having emptied his bench after the 46th minute the penalty kick sequence went as follows:
Phi-Sheanon Williams scored
FCD-Tesho Akindele scored
Phi-Vincent Nogueira scored
FCD-Blas Perez shot attempt saved by MacMath
Phi-Cristian Maidana scored
FCD-Zach Loyd scored
Phi-Maurice Edu scored
FCD-Victor Ulloa shot attempt saved.
Union advances to US Open Final (4-3).
When asked about the consistent great play of Fabian Castillo and of his goal Oscar Pareja didn’t hold back.
“It was beautiful,” Pareja said. “I saw those last ten minutes and the rest of the extra time with an atmosphere here in the park that I hadn’t seen before so that was awesome. The stadium wasn’t full but I was proud of the fans. “
Despite a US Open elimination does this sound like a coach who was dejected over what he and 4,236 fans were witness to?
“This is the group that I want to coach and the group that I dreamed to coach one day,” said Pareja. “Tonight I was very pleased and the game gave me the opportunity to coach this group of players and my dream came true. This is the heart that I want to see in the organization in games. I love it.”
Pareja had lots of praise for the team effort after the match.
“We emptied ourselves. The players did on the field and that’s something that I’m very proud of,” said Oscar Pareja. “They left everything on the field really. It was one of those performances that encouraged you and made you feel not just proud but honored to belong to this club and this group of players.”
FC Dallas was able to reach this level of the Cup by defeating the Scorpions of San Antonio and Houston Dynamo.
While there will not be a Lamar Hunt trophy to hoist like in 1997, there is another game to be played today in San Jose. A streak of eight games without a loss. As one might imagine the FC Dallas Coach isn’t worried in the least.
“We have a couple days to refuel again, but there is some fundamentals here that are there so I’m not worried about it…the heart is there so I’m not worried about it.”
Next home game for FC Dallas shall be on August 22 when Real Salt Lake makes a summer visit to North Texas.
8/16 @San Jose 9:30 p.m.