The Union advanced to the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup for the first time in three years on Wednesday, knocking out Orlando City with a 1-0 win at Talen Energy Stadium.
Alejandro Bedoya had the goal, cashing in on a well-worked corner kick in the fourth minute. It was Bedoya’s first goal since April 7, a stretch of 16 games.
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“It felt good, man,” Bedoya said. “I’ve been so close — I normally go to that first post and I’ve been [close to] getting on the end of it, but finally it fell in for me.”
Things got a bit sloppy in the early stages of the second half. The Union were loose with possession in midfield and weren’t sharp in the attacking third when they got there. But Orlando didn’t do much with what it was given, and by the 70th minute or so the Union tightened things up.
The most credit goes to centerbacks Auston Trusty and Mark McKenzie, who put the clamps on Orlando striker Dom Dwyer and rarely let him have a good look at goal.
“You’re starting to see them advance the ball through midfield on the dribble, play through the lines, and they’re really a solid partnership back there,” Union manager Jim Curtin said, later adding: “The best defense is to have the ball.”
McKenzie was especially impressive, tussling one-on-one with Dwyer a few times and starting moves the other way once the ball turned over.
“He was a beast,” Curtin said. “His ability to not just dominate physically — whether it’s in the air, in duels, in one-one-ones — but also, what gets Earnie [Stewart] and me excited is how good he was with the ball. He played through the lines, plays passes that eliminate five and six defenders at a time.”
At the other end, Fafa Picault was the Union’s most dangerous attacking player. He gave Orlando fits, rampaging down the left wing for the first hour and the right after starter David Accam was substituted out.
“He must have covered the most ground tonight, in terms of being on the left side, popping up on the right at the end to make a play,” Curtin said. “The team wants him to be rewarded with a goal. He probably deserved a goal, but you can’t fault his work rate [and] how selfless he was for the team.”
The Union will play the winner of Wednesday’s Chicago Fire-Louisville City game in the semifinals. The host for the game will be determined by a draw Thursday.