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Trophies, legends and stars: reflecting on Houston’s first U.S. Open Cup trophy

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)

HOUSTON — History was made Wednesday night when the Houston Dynamo lifted the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup trophy for the first time in club history. They did so by taking care of the Philadelphia Union 3-0, behind a Mauro Manotas brace. 

Here are three thoughts from the Dynamo’s U.S. Open Cup victory:

Trophy and Concacaf Champions League

It’s safe to say the 2018 Major League Soccer season hasn’t gone as planned for the Houston Dynamo. With the MLS playoffs out of arm’s length, winning the U.S. Open Cup was the saving grace for Houston this year. The 3-0 victory to claim the trophy was even sweeter as it was the club’s first U.S. Open Cup championship.

Lifting the trophy means the 2018 season won’t be remembered as the season in which the Dynamo underperformed. Better yet, La Naranja gets an automatic berth to the group stage of the Concacaf Champions League.

With the 2018 MLS season all but over for Houston, it would bode well for the Orange to start thinking about Concacaf Champions League and how to use its $300,000 in prize money.

To compete and have a chance to advance, the Dynamo are going to need quality depth — something that bit them during the 2018 MLS season when last year’s MVP, Juan David Cabezas, missed a large portion of the season and Houston had no like-for-like replacement.

The same goes for the back line, where the Dynamo had a carousel of defenders throughout the year. 

Dynamo legends cement legacy

DaMarcus Beasley, the Dynamo’s veteran defender, wanted the U.S. Open Cup trophy bad. Houston’s captain has won the trophy before, twice actually, but as his playing career draws to an end, it serves as the possible cherry on top of what has been a legendary career.

After the game, the 36-year-old former winger said winning this U.S. Open Cup was “special,” especially at his age.

“This is something that I’ll never forget. 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,” Beasley said. “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.”

Another Dynamo legend who finally got his due was El Presidente, the moniker given to Boniek Garcia. One of the Dynamo’s elder statesman, Garcia has bled Orange since the 2012 season, where he helped lead Houston to the MLS Cup final, a game lost 3-1 after taking an early lead. 

“It’s a great joy. I don’t think we’ve celebrated this way since 2012 when we won the conference,” Garcia said. “The opportunity was presented to us, and we wanted to take advantage of it. The public really helped, the fans supported us, and that was our strength. Unfortunately, being realistic, the playoffs are pretty far for us, but we need to enjoy this moment as best as we can.”

Manotas shines on national stage

Mauro Manotas is well known to Houston Dynamo fans, but on Wednesday night in front of a national audience, the 23-year-old Colombian striker put on a show. He scored a brace in the first half, but it was how they were scored that was most impressive. 

His 4th-minute header was due to positioning and awareness in the box. But his encore was a true thing of beauty. 

In the 24th minute, Manotas got the ball at the halfway line. He sent a short pass to Alberth Elis on the right wing. drawing Manotas’ defender in the process. Manotas occupied the vacant space and received a return pass from Elis. And that’s when Manotas started operating. 

He got the ball on the right wing, evaded Union centerback Auston Trusty and went at Union centerback Jack Elliott, who was backpedaling.

With the ball on his right foot, Manotas took a couple touches before cutting to the left — turning Elliott around in the process — and letting it rip from outside the box with a left-footed rocket. The ball pinged off the back post and into the net.

The skills Manotas display in the final can best be summed up by Taylor Twellman, the ESPN commentator calling the game. When Manotas evaded Trusty on his second goal, Twellman interrupted commentator Adrian Healey.

“This kid is something else by the way,”  Twellman said, not knowing Manotas was on his way to scoring a goal and winning the U.S. Open Cup Golden Boot with it.

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