Fire-Union: Open Cup semifinal lineups and observations
- It’s a 50/50 split on the injury front. Maurice Edu shakes off his groin injury to earn a place in the starting XI, relegating Steven Vitoria to the stands (he’s not even in the 18, thanks to the limit of five international players in the lineup). Vincent Nogueira, however, fails his fitness test. That means the Union field the same front six as Saturday’s draw with Orlando City, with Brian Carroll and Michael Lahoud a rather conservative central midfield pairing.
- The glaring work-in-progress for the Union is in the midfield triumvirate. How much interchange is there between Cristian Maidana, ostensibly in the No. 10 role, and Tranquillo Barnetta on the left wing? How much less effective is that group without a credible threat from an attack-minded No. 8 (presumably Lahoud in this case)? And if that arrangement doesn’t work or doesn’t push the action as manager Jim Curtin desires at home against a Fire team winless in its last 19 games outside of Illinois, how quickly does he dial up a change, perhaps Zach Pfeffer in midfield or Fernando Aristeguieta up top with CJ Sapong moved to the wing?
- The Fire, MLS’s only winless team on the road this season, have all of their firepower back, and they have no shortage of attacking options, albeit ones with limited experience playing together. David Accam and Shaun Maloney are ready to go from the start, and Gilberto makes his debut with Maloney playing off his shoulder. Mike Magee, Patrick Nyarko and Kennedy Igboananike are late-game options aplenty off the bench. There will be plenty of interchanging to challenge Carroll and Lahoud: Harry Shipp spiriting in from the left wing, Maloney hovering behind Gilberto, Accam running toward the byline from wherever he pleases. The Fire are last in the Eastern Conference in goals scored by a wide margin, but they don’t have the injury excuse to factor in Wednesday.
- This is the Union’s ninth Open Cup match since the start of 2014. None of the previous eight have finished in 90 minutes. Six have gone to extra time, three have required resolution through penalty kicks and two were delayed by weather. The weather at PPL Park looks clear, so bet on extra time.
Labels: Brian Carroll, Chicago Fire, Cristian Maidana, David Accam, Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, Maurice Edu, Michael Lahoud, Philadelphia Union, Shaun Maloney, Steven Vitoria, Tranquillo Barnetta, Vincent Nogueira