HOUSTON – For the first time in club history, the Houston Dynamo are Lamar Hunt U.S Open Cup champions.
Mauro Manotas scored twice in the opening 25 minutes of Wednesday night’s final to help the Orange take care of business against the Philadelphia Union, soundly defeating them 3-0 in front of an announced 16,060 fans at BBVA Compass Stadium.
The odds of the Dynamo getting a Major League Soccer playoff berth this season are not in their favor, making the U.S. Open Cup victory the team’s saving grace. And to their credit, La Naranja came out of the gate smoking.
Did Dynamo head coach Wilmer Cabrera motivate his guys to come out firing on all cylinders?
“When you play a final you don’t need to motivate much. Too much talking is not good. You need to be disciplined and understand that everyone is nervous, everyone is high on adrenaline,” Cabrera said. “We had to be disciplined, organized and play to our strengths. When we had the chances we had to be sure to put those away and it couldn’t work out any better for us.”
Houston did, in fact, bury its chances. And it started in the 4th minute.
Dynamo forward Alberth Elis sprinted down the right wing, chasing after a long ball sent over the top by Boniek Garcia. La Panterita got to the ball before it touched the end line and swung a cross toward goal.
The ball took a bounce off the pitch, evading the hands of Union goalkeeper Andre Blake and defender Jack Elliott before falling to Manotas, who dropped to his knees to head it to the back of the net.
The goal gave the Dynamo the early lead and also gave notice to the Philadelphia Union. A message the Union got loud and clear in the 25th minute when Houston doubled its lead.
Philadelphia Union's Auston Trusty reacts after a goal during the second half of the U.S. Open Cup championship soccer match against the Houston Dynamo Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
And much like the first goal, it came from an Elis pass for his second assist of the game.
Manotas got the ball 45 yards from goal. The Colombian striker put his head down and went at Elliott. He had the ball on his right foot, switched it onto his left and turned Elliott around. The Dynamo’s No. 9 saw an opportunity and blasted a left-footed low-shot effort from inside the semicircle just outside the 18-yard box.
The ball pinged off the back post and into the net.
The goal also made Manotas the 2018 U.S. Open Cup’s Golden Boot winner and was his 20th goal of the year across all competitions. He’s the first Dynamo player to accomplish that feat.
Manotas said postgame that he was so anxious about the game that he had a hard time keeping food down.
“It wasn’t sickness, it was just nerves and anxiousness to play and to win it,” Manotas said. “As a forward, they are always looking at you, especially in finals, and thank God I delivered.”
The Colombian striker did in fact delivered — twice.
As the second half got underway, the U.S. Open Cup was Houston’s to lose. The Orange added a third goal with the help of the Union.
In the 65th minute, Elis headed a ball towards Manotas on the right wing. Manotas sprinted towards goal before pulling it back and passing it to Tomas Martinez at the top of the box.
The Argentinian midfielder couldn’t settle the ball to shoot it and instead lost it in the process. The ball rolled to Dynamo midfielder Juan David Cabezas, who sent a one-timed pass to Romell Quioto on the left wing.
Quioto unleashed a shot that Blake parried away and into the feet of Auston Trusty. The 20-year-old Union centerback tried to clear the ball but instead sent it careening into his own net to give Houston a 3-0 lead.
Trusty immediately kneeled over and put his head on his shoulders.
— Joe Tansey (@JTansey90) September 27, 2018
The own goal sealed the game for Houston. All that was left for the Orange was to see the game out, which they did, to lift the U.S. Open Cup trophy for the first time in club history. It’s also the Dynamo’s first trophy in any competition since winning the MLS Cup in 2007.
“The players, the coaches put so much effort into trying to win this cup, you know, for ourselves, and it’s even sweeter because of the season we’ve been having. Like I said before, this doesn’t save our season, but at the same time, it feels damn good to win this cup, to be champions,” Dynamo defender DaMarcus Beasley said.
“I’m glad everyone can feel how this feels. Throughout their career, I want them to keep this feeling and know what it takes, know how it feels to be champions because that’s what we are today, champions.”