By RYAN TOLMICH
With 76 teams already eliminated from tournament play, the U.S. Open Cup enters its semifinal stage with a quartet of MLS sides competing for the right to be called tournament champions.
The tournament’s penultimate round gets under way tonight when the Philadelphia Union visit Toyota Stadium and FC Dallas with a chance to host the tournament’s final game on the line. The two sides have met once previously during the MLS season with FC Dallas picking up a 2-1 victory on the very same field that will host Tuesday’s clash.
Interim manager Jim Curtin’s side, which currently sit in the fifth and final Eastern Conference playoff position, enters the tournament’s semis for the second time in three seasons, with the 2012 edition ending with a disappointing loss to eventual champions Sporting KC.
However, the Union could potentially face a limited Sebastian Le Toux. The Union forward picked up an injury towards the end of the team’s 2-1 win over the Montreal Impact in a game that saw the Frenchman score both Union goals.
On the heels of the victory over the Impact, the Union enter the tournament’s semis undefeated in their last six contests, with their last defeat coming in the aforementioned loss to their semifinal opposition.
For their part, FC Dallas enter Tuesday’s clash in the midst of an eight-game league unbeaten streak dating, which has catapulted the club into playoff contention, with the team’s last loss coming on the final day of May.
Despite not having a fully fit Mauro Diaz for a majority of that run, FC Dallas has been driven by the success of Andres Escobar and Fabian Castillo, the latter of whom scored in the team’s last contest, a 3-1 victory over the Colorado Rapids.
THREE-TIME CHAMPIONS SOUNDERS HOST FIRE
After three-peating as U.S. Open champions from 2009-11, the Seattle Sounders have hit, by their standards, a cold spell in America’s longest-running soccer tournament.
On the heels of a disappointing 2013 run that saw the perennial powerhouse crash out in the first round, the Sounders will look to advance to their first U.S. Open Cup finals appearance since 2012 when they take on the Chicago Fire Wednesday at Starfire Sports Complex.
The Sounders, who currently top MLS’ Western Conference, enter Wednesday’s matchup on a high note, having recovered from an uncharacteristic two-game losing streak with a 2-0 victory over the visiting Houston Dynamo.
The Sounders are expected to be without star fullback DeAndre Yedlin, who is reportedly finalizing a deal to Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur.
On the other hand, the Fire head into Wednesday’s clash on a three game unbeaten streak, with the most recent being a 1-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls.
After falling in the semifinal round in last year’s tournament to eventual champions D.C. United, the Fire will look to advance towards capturing the team’s fifth U.S. Open Cup championship.
However, the Fire will be without forward Mike Magee, who picked up a red card in the Fire’s previous U.S. Open Cup contest, a 3-1 victory over the NASL’s Atlanta Silverbacks.
The visitors will also be looking to finally pick up their first ever victory over the Sounders, as the Fire head into Wednesday with an 0-6-3 record against their semifinal opposition, including a 0-3-1 record in Seattle.
What are your predictions for the pair of semifinal matchups? What players do you see making the biggest impacts?
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