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A Philadelphia Union blog hosted by Christopher A. Vito and Matthew De George

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Open Cup final: Lineups and prematch observations

Union (4-2-3-1)
What they're playing for: The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
(Times Staff/Julia Wilkinson)
Gaddis -Valdes-White-Williams
Wenger-Maidana-Le Toux
Bench: M’Bolhi, Lahoud, Okugo, Carroll, Fred, Cruz, Ribeiro

Seattle Sounders (4-4-2)
Bench: Hahnemann, Anibaba, Ariza, Pineda, Cooper, Martins, Pappa

- The first name on the team sheet is the most telling: Jim Curtin is sticking with his man, putting his faith in Zac MacMath in what could very well be the last time he plays in front of the Union faithful. His shootout heroics are why the Union got to the final, and the hope from Curtin is that he’ll lead them to the organization’s first trophy.

- Curtin also gets his dream midfield scenario for the first time, pairing a dynamic holding midfielder (Maurice Edu) with his preferred deep-lying playmaker (Vincent Nogueira) and his preferred central attacking midfielder (Cristian Maidana). Injuries and international absences had long prevented this from happening, but this is the chance for the Union to put out its strongest team at just the right moment.

- With everyone available, someone had to make way to the bench. That turns out to be Amobi Okugo, despite playing very well of late. Objectively, Okugo might be a little better at his position than Ethan White, so the decision for Curtin was to field your best 11 players or your best starting XI.Seeing Okugo relegated to the bench is a nod to Curtin’s stated desire to have central defenders (like White) play as central defenders and midfielders (like Edu) play as midfielders.

- Seattle named unchanged lineups that are essentially their best XIs the last two games in MLS, including a 3-2 win against Real Salt Lake last Friday. They make just one change today, with Obafemi Martins rested for Chad Barrett. Along with Martins, the bench includes Kenny Cooper, the second-leading scorer in the modern era of the U.S. Open Cup with 13 goals. That includes a goal in each game this season, six in total, plus five goals in seven MLS games against the Union.

- If you’re looking for a key for the Union tonight, it might just be taking care of Andy Rose, who has three goals in his last two games. He could really shift the balance making those runs off the attention given to Clint Dempsey.

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