For the second year in a row, the Union are headed to the U.S. Open Cup Final. And, again for the second year in a row, it will be played here, at PPL Park.
On the strength of a rare dominant performance, the Union cruised to a 1-0 victory of the Chicago. Open Cup legend Sebastien Le Toux scored the winner in the 75th minute.
Matt Polster's heavy touch deep in his own half started the move that lead to his team's demise. Brian Carroll recovered the loose ball and played it to Le Toux. After a bit of luck, he managed to free himself up near the top of the box.
"I kind of like touched the ball and it went through the leg of one defender, which is very lucky," Le Toux explained after the match. "I just took another touch and I was open."
Though he was staring the goal right in the face, there was still hard work to do. Since the play started on the right side, Le Toux was cutting onto his left foot.
"It went to my left foot, not my best foot," said Le Toux. "I was like alright let's take a crack and luckily it went in."
As much as he'd like to downplay it, the goal was taken excellently. To someone not familiar with Le Toux's feet, that goal would hardly seem a fluke. His hard, low shot from 18 yards out found the bottom corner, beating the previously indomitable Sean Johnson.
Though the goal came late in the match—so late that extra time reared its ugly head—the game was never all too close. After a few minutes of early pressure from Chicago, the Union grabbed hold of the match and kept it in submission until the final whistle.
Cristian Maidana was given free reign on Wednesday night, regaining his usual central starting point and roaming to find space. He proved once again that the Union attack is at its best in his hands. He terrorized the Chicago Fire defenders all night, but most notably in the 24th minute.
After finding space on the right side, where Maidana set up shop for most of the first half, he opted to cut inside rather than cross. Running across the top of the box, Maidana let one loose with his left foot in search of the near corner, a shot prophetic of the winner that would come nearly an hour later. Unlike that deciding shot, this one did not go in. Sean Johnson's save ricocheted off the post and into the path of CJ Sapong, but he couldn't overcome a tight angle to give his side the lead.
Just moments later, Maidana, now on the left side, found Brian Carroll on the near post with a quick cross. Carroll tried to side-foot it home off the bounce, but Johnson saw it all the way and just barely beat the ball to the goal line.
In the 37th minute, some high pressure created another chance for the Union. In one motion, Sebastien Le Toux tackled an opponent inside his own box and squared a ball to CJ Sapong. The striker attempted some sort of flying back heel in an effort to redirect the ball toward the far post. Sapong was otherwise remarkable on the night, but he may look back at this chance as one he should have taken, perhaps in a more simple fashion.
At the start of the second half, Chicago tried to find their way back into the match, but the Union again took the upper hand after allowing a few half-chances.
Cristian Maidana and Maurice Edu almost combined to score their team's first in the 66th minute, but the end result didn't even force a save from Sean Johnson. Maidana's long free kick service found Edu running free toward the near post, but his touch sent the ball over the bar, not into the net.
Of course, Chicago did have a few chances to spike Union fan's heart rates before the game's end. In the 83rd minute, Kennedy Igboananike got on his bike and sent one to the far corner, but John McCarthy was not allowing any equalizers on Wednesday night.
When the final whistle blew (after 90 minutes, thank god) the Union were victors. Since Real Salt Lake lost to Sporting Kansas City, PPL Park will host the U.S. Open Cup Final for the second year in a row. The Union's shot at redemption will come on September 30th.