Mauro Manotas Brace Propels Houston Dynamo to First-Ever U.S. Open Cup

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Mauro Manotas
HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 26: Mauro Manotas #9 of Houston Dynamo celebrates his second goal of the first half against the Philadelphia Union during the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final at BBVA Compass Stadium on September 26, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Houston, Texas (September 26, 2018) — Mauro Manotas helped the Houston Dynamo make history on Wednesday.

The Colombian striker tallied a brace as the Dynamo knocked off the Philadelphia Union 3-0 in the 2018 U.S. Open Cup Final. It marked the first time in franchise history that Houston emerged as tournament winners. Their triumph makes them the 63rd team to take home the trophy in the 105-year history of American soccer’s oldest club tournament.

Mauro Manotas Brace Propels Houston Dynamo to First-Ever U.S. Open Cup Triumph

Things escalated rather quickly when Houston drew first blood in the fourth minute. It came via Manotas who took advantage of some ball-watching from Jack Elliott. The Colombian number nine made a well-timed run down the middle and connected on a pass from Alberth Elis with his head to give the Dynamo a 1-0 edge.

The tally was Manotas’ fifth of the tournament which put him in a tie with LAFC’s Diego Rossi and Miami United FC’s David Ochoa for tops in the tournament.

But he wasn’t done. 21 minutes after his opening strike, he notched a brace to double the Dynamo’s lead. And once again, he victimized Elliott in the leadup to the goal. This time, he took a few dribbles towards the Union centerback outside the box, dribbled towards his left, and fired the ball at goal. It beat Andre Blake to his right, caromed off the left post, and into the net.

It was a Colombian-Honduran connection on the goal for the second straight time with Elis tallying his second assist.

Going down two appeared to unsettle the Union. They seemed too quick to resort to direct play rather than string together passes as a means towards advancing the ball towards goal. And on multiple occasions during the remainder of the first half did they get in trouble with errant distribution that gave Houston opportunities to expand its lead.

Obviously, the 2-0 scoreline was the most important stat heading into halftime. But there are others that are telling in terms of how it ultimately came to be. Of particular interest is the defensive action numbers of Houston’s Juan Cabezas and Philadelphia’s Haris Medunjanin.

Both those players are tasked with the most defensive responsibilities in the midfield. And after 45 minutes, Cabezas had two tackles, two interceptions, and five recoveries while Medunjanin didn’t register a defensive action of any kind.

The Union essentially sealed its own fate in the 65th minute. On Houston’s first two goals, it was Elliott who dealt with his fair share of struggles. But this time around, it was Philly’s other center back, Auston Trusty, who was responsible for a Dynamo goal. His attempted clearance, with Manotas running at his back shoulder in search of a hat-trick, went right into the upper right-hand corner of his own net.

Wednesday’s result compounds the misery for Philly in this tournament. It’s the third time in the last five years that the Union have made the final only to come up short. As a result, they become the first MLS team to lose in the championship game on three separate occasions.

Both teams return to MLS regular season play this coming Saturday. The Dynamo, who are 12 points out of the playoffs with five games left, host the San Jose Earthquakes. Meanwhile, the Union remain on the road but have an important clash looming with Columbus Crew SC. Columbus is just one point ahead of Philly for fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

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