US Open Cup Final Preview Part 1: Philadelphia Union

Sep 13, 2014; Chester, PA, USA; Philadelphia Union forward Sebastien Le Toux (11) takes a penalty kick and scores to tie the match against the New York Red Bulls during the second half at PPL Park. The match ended in a 2-2 draw.  Mandatory Credit: John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle Sounders v Philadelphia Union.
Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Final

The US Open Cup Final has nearly arrived, and with it comes the familiar faces of the Seattle Sounders, 3 time winners of the US Open Cup. This year, the Sounders will face off with MLS competitors Philadelphia Union in the final to be played at the Union’s home ground, PPL Park in Philadelphia.

This is the first chance at a major trophy this season, and Seattle will most likely be favored going into the match, especially off the back of some excellent wins and a nice place atop the Western Conference. Philadelphia, however, will have something to say about the matter.

To learn a little more about the Union and how their season has progressed to lead them to the US Open Cup Final, I reached out to a buddy of mine from Mid-Michigan United, a local soccer supporters group based out of Lansing, Michigan. Aaron is a Philadelphia Union supporter, and thus was the perfect person to ask about how the team has gotten here, and what to look out for in this match.

Per his email, Aaron describes Union’s season:

“Philly has struggled for most of this season, and manager John Hackworth was sacked midway through the season. The team is now run by interim manager Jim Curtin, who by most indications won’t be managing the team next season even if they win the USOC Final. Union have been a solidly mid-table team (at best) most of the season, winning some games they shouldn’t – beating current MLS Cup champions Sporting KC away at KC, comes to mind- but struggling in games where they shouldn’t have to. That includes in the US Open Cup, where they struggled to pull out wins in extra time against lower division sides, most notably in two early rounds against Harrisburg City Islanders and New York Cosmos. The Union wound up in US Open Cup Final by beating FC Dallas in a penalty shootout in Dallas, thanks to an 81st minute goal from Fabian Castillo.

Seattle are almost certainly a lock for the MLS playoffs, possibly even the Supporters Shield, so it’s not the end of the world if they lose. Philly, on the other hand, have floated just outside of the playoff picture for most of the season, so expect them to throw everything they have at the Sounders. Add to that the possibility of winning a piece of silverware in their own stadium, and it’s a big night for Philly.”

Things to watch for: Philadelphia Union:
1) Who starts in goal for the Union? Philadelphia have signed Algeria keeper Rais M’Bolhi, but he has yet to usurp Zach MacMath from between the sticks.
2.) Union are a fairly solid defensive team. They’ve played with multiple backlines consistently, and are competent at defending, a back 4 consisting of  Ray Gaddis, Sheanon Williams, the USMNT’s Maurice Edu and Ethan White most likely to get the nod, however Edu could be moved back to midfield.
3.) Former Sounder Sebastien Le Toux will most likely start at Right Midfield in the 4-2-3-1 formation, but plays all around the park. He’s a dangerous threat, and has not missed a PK for the Union, should the US Open Cup come down to that!

Check out Aaron (and if you’re from Michigan, Mid-Michigan United) on Twitter!

Tomorrow morning we’ll have a preview of the match looking at the Sounders run up to the US Open Cup Final, as well as a match prediction right here at Sounders Nation!

C’mon Sounders!

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