On Wednesday, July 25, the Philadelphia Union came to BBVA Compass Stadium with 24 points through 20 games. They left with a 3-1 win and a boost of confidence allowing them to pick up 22 points in their next 10 games and reach the 2018 U.S. Open Cup Final, where they return to Houston to face the Dynamo again (7 p.m. CT | TICKETS).
Head coach Jim Curtin says that they’re not reading too much into that result, “they're with different teams, they're at different stages of a campaign,” but he’s happy with the transformation he’s seen in his team since then.
“There's a feeling of our group that we've been better on the road this season as a team collectively, and that's been a little more commitment on the defensive side,” Curtin said. “A lot of different things have changed, little things that can add up to big things.”
Philadelphia is coming off of two positive results in the last week, snapping Seattle Sounders’ winning streak with a 1-0 win on the road, then coming home on Sunday to take down Western Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City 2-0 with a largely rotated lineup. The result is a team that is feeling fresh and confident going into a midweek championship match.
The fact that it is a midweek game isn’t lost on the Union either, as they have gone 7-1-0 in Wednesday games this season.
“We've been in a rhythm – Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday – and our preparation has been good, but there hasn't been a lot of time to just dwell on the moment and how grand and big of a game this is,” he said. “And our players, it's no secret, are in good form. It’s a powerful thing.”
Curtin is wary of the threat of the Dynamo front four of Tomás Martínez, Alberth Elis, Romell Quioto, and Mauro Manotas – who he says is not talked about enough.The Union head coach wants to dictate the tempo of Wednesday’s match and not get into a track meet with Houston’s speedsters.
“It comes down to which team controls the tempo and the rhythm of the game,” Curtin said. “It's no secret that Houston is probably the most dynamic, dangerous team on the counterattack that our league has.”
Dynamo defender DaMarcus Beasley, who won the 2003 U.S. Open Cup alongside Curtin at the Chicago Fire, expects a well-organized side from his former captain.
“He’s very organized,” Beasley said, “And you see that with his team and how they play.” But the Dynamo veteran isn’t worried about who’s coming in with a better record or the latest winning streak – it’s who can prove it in the course of one night.
“You get 90 minutes to prove that you're the best team on that day. That's it. That's all you get.”