Chicago Fire: Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup
It was only a matter of time before the Sounders would strike, and Fredy Montero provided the winner in the 77th minute to lead Seattle to a 2-0 win over the Fire in front of an Open Cup-record crowd of 35,615 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.
"I just think we never got [in] rhythm," Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas said. "We had a little bit of a momentum change in the first half, then it just seemed that we didn't get that back. And our frontrunners didn't seem to work well off each other."
Osvaldo Alonso added a goal five minutes into second-half stoppage time as Seattle won its third straight Open Cup.
Chicago fell to 4-2 in Open Cup finals, also dropping the 2004 title match to the Kansas City Wizards, while winning the 1998, 2000, 2003 and 2006 Open Cups.
The Sounders were the clear-cut attacking force for most of Tuesday's match, and Chicago was lucky on a couple of occasions to maintain the scoreless stalemate. Montero struck the left post in first-half stoppage time. Then in the 53rd minute, Mike Fucito flicked the ball over Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson but hit the right post.
Montero finally broke through in the 77th when he scored off of a rebound. On a set piece, Seattle's Jeff Parke had a header that was saved by Johnson. But Montero was able to clean up for the goal.
Alonso added an exclamation point with his late tally, dribbling past Fire midfielder Pavel Pardo, Logan Pause, a late-arriving Patrick Nyarko and Johnson to place the ball into the net for the 2-0 lead.
Chicago did not create a great deal of chances, but there were some moments where the Fire could have created some offensive damage. In the 39th minute, Marco Pappa's strike deflected off of Fire forward Dominic Oduro, but Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller dove to his left to make the save.
In the 90th minute the Fire had a chance for an equalizer when Fire defender Cory Gibbs headed the ball forward and Oduro's header almost went over Keller's glove. But Oduro was in an offside position anyway.
Johnson had six saves for the Fire and Keller had four for the Sounders.
Analysis: Seattle was by far the better team on the pitch, and there is no disputing it. The Fire could only withstand the Sounders' barrage of attacks for so long.
One element that hurt the Fire was the lack of time they got out of midfielder Sebastian Grazzini, (hamstring). According to the Fire, Grazzini said that he could only go for about 10 minutes. That appears to explain why the Fire waited until the 84th minute to get him in there. But by that point, Montero already did the damage. Chicago minimally needed a healthy 45-minute effort from Grazzini to have a chance against the Sounders.
Defensively, the Fire were shaky. Center back Josip Mikulic was the weak link among the Fire's back line. To make matters worse, Mikulic cramped up once again and rookie Jalil Anibaba was brought in at the 61st minute. Anibaba should have started the match.
Overall, it was a commendable Open Cup run for the Fire, and realistically this was all Chicago had left to play for this year. The MLS playoffs are a long shot, especially following the New York Red Bulls' 2-0 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy earlier Tuesday.
How it happened: The Sounders' Fredy Montero tallied the game-winner in the 77th minute as he scored off of a rebound. Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson had the initial save on Jeff Parke's header, but Montero was there to clean up. Then for good measure, Osvaldo Alonso added a goal five minutes into stoppage time, zipping past the Fire's Pavel Pardo, Logan Pause and Patrick Nyarko, past Johnson and placing the ball into the net. Seattle was the clear offensive force all game as Montero hit the left post in first-half stoppage time and the Sounders' Mike Fucito hit the right post in the 53rd. The Fire's closest scoring opportunity came in the 39th minute when Marco Pappa took a deep strike that deflected off of Chicago forward Dominic Oduro, but Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller dove to his left for the save.
What it means: The Sounders won their third straight Open Cup title after winning in 2009 over D.C. United and the Columbus Crew in 2010. The Fire moved to 4-2 in Open Cup finals. Chicago lost the 2004 final to the Kansas City Wizards, while winning the 1998, 2000, 2003 and 2006 Open Cups.
Outside the box: As expected, the Seattle faithful and some folks traveling from Chicago packed in a U.S. Open Cup record crowd of 35,615 at CenturyLink Field.
Up next: The Fire resume MLS play when they host FC Dallas for the second leg of the Brimstone Cup at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 12, at Toyota Park.
Klopas capped off the Fire's inaugural 1998 MLS season with the game-winning goal during Chicago's Open Cup win over the Columbus Crew.
Now Klopas will be on the sidelines, where Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid on Monday made a ringing endorsement, saying that "Frank has to have a conversation with his boss, his technical director, who I think is also named Frank, and get that 'interim' removed from his title."
Klopas' '98 game-winner against the Crew was a banner moment in a banner season. But if the 2011 Fire manage to unseat Seattle in front of its home faithful of 30,000-plus, Klopas said that as a coach it would carry more enjoyment than the '98 Open Cup team.
"If we were to win this, I think the feeling would be different," Klopas said. "It would probably be better to be able to do it also from this side because I know what these players go through every day, their commitment, and the focus. And I think it would be a great feeling to be on this side. It would be a better moment than doing it as a player. It's hard to say. I know it would be different for me. I would enjoy it more."
With the Sounders and Fire both winning this tournament during their MLS expansion seasons (Seattle in 2009), clearly Klopas and Schmid have put plenty of stock into the Open Cup. The Fire and Sounders have six Open Cup titles between them entering Tuesday's game.
"We've been an MLS team that has won it more than any other -- four times," Klopas said. "So we are very much looking forward to playing against a very good team, in an atmosphere that is second to none, other than Chicago, I would say, for me. The players are looking forward to the match. I'm looking forward to the match. The atmosphere is going to be fantastic."
"I'm a big fan of history and tradition, and this is a competition that has history and tradition within U.S. Soccer," Schmid said. "It's a competition that I, myself, have been able to play in years and years ago. I know my friends in L.A. who played for a club there called Maccabi AC, who ended up winning like five U.S. Open Cups."
Seattle's 2009 run both in the Open Cup and during the regular season certainly brought back the talk of the Fire's '98 season because no other MLS expansion team had been able to make such a strong early statement.
Now the Sounders have a chance at a third crown after beating D.C. United in '09 and the Crew last year.
"I think as an expansion team, as a young club in MLS, winning the first two Open Cups were tremendous in terms of our club's recognition, and in terms of our fans, and in terms of the confidence of our team and our players, to realize that they can win a competition and that they can get through it. Our philosophy is, even though there are other 'fish to fry,' if you're not going to try and win it, let's not enter it."
From the Fire's standpoint, their season has dual importance once again now that they are hanging around the outskirts of the playoff picture.
Chicago is playing in its third game in a week, coming off a 1-1 draw at the Houston Dynamo on Saturday, preceded by a 3-0 road win over Real Salt Lake last Wednesday.
One person the Fire might be getting back is midfielder Sebastian Grazzini, who missed both of those matches with a hamstring injury.
"If he's OK [Tuesday morning], I think he'll be available on the 18-man roster," Klopas said of Grazzini. "But we just have to see how he reacts to [Monday night's] session. We pushed him [Sunday] a little bit with our fitness coach. ... With a hamstring, you never know until you actually go out there and do some kind of fitness test and some sprinting."
The Fire won during their 1998 MLS expansion season, as did the Sounders during their 2009 MLS expansion campaign.
No matter which team wins Tuesday, the Fire and Sounders will have a combined seven titles between them over the past 14 years. Here is a rundown of each of their previous Open Cup titles:
1998: Chicago Fire 2, Columbus Crew 1 (OT): Five days after defeating D.C. United to win the MLS Cup in their inaugural season, the Fire completed the "double" by topping Columbus in the Open Cup final on Oct. 30 at Soldier Field. Frank Klopas tallied the game-winning golden goal in the 99th minute, redirecting Ante Razov's initial shot with a header. Jerzy Podbrozny gave the Fire a 1-0 lead in the 45th minute with a penalty kick, shortly after Josh Wolff was tripped up in the box by the Crew's Juergen Sommer.
2000: Chicago Fire 2, Miami Fusion 1: The Fire had lost the MLS Cup to the Kansas City Wizards six days earlier, but there was some consolation in topping Miami on Oct. 21 at Soldier Field. An own goal from the Fusion's Tyrone Marshall in the 88th minute off of a DaMarcus Beasley cross proved to be the deciding factor to give Chicago a 2-0 lead. Miami's Welton cut into the lead in stoppage time, but the Fusion ran out of time. Hristo Stoitchkov had a 44th-minute goal for the Fire as Ante Razov beat Miami goalkeeper Nick Rimando and got the ball to Stoitchkov for the easy goal.
2003: Chicago Fire 1, N.Y./N.J MetroStars 0: Forward Damani Ralph provided the lone goal as the Fire topped the MetroStars in front of only 5,183 on Oct. 15 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Ralph scored in the 68th minute, with Evan Whitfield providing the assist. Chicago became the first MLS team to earn an Open Cup win on the road.
2006: Chicago Fire 3, Los Angeles Galaxy 1: The Fire's Nate Jaqua and Andy Herron scored goals in the 10th and 16th minutes, respectively, as Chicago never looked back during its win on Sept. 27 at Toyota Park. The Galaxy was attempting to defend its crown from a year before against FC Dallas. L.A.'s Alan Gordon cut Chicago's lead to 2-1 in the 51st minute, but Thiago's 88th-minute goal sealed the deal for the Fire.
2009: Seattle Sounders 2, D.C. United 1: Roger Levesque's 86th-minute tally proved to be the difference as Seattle held on for the Open Cup title at RFK Stadium. But the big story came shortly after Fredy Montero's 67th-minute goal that gave Seattle the 1-0 lead. Shortly after the score, United goalkeeper Josh Wicks stomped on Montero and was issued a red card. He was issued a five-game Open Cup ban for his actions. The defending champion United did manage to cut into the Sounders' lead in the 89th minute with a Clyde Simms goal, but D.C.'s late stoppage-time attempts came up empty.
2010: Seattle Sounders 2, Columbus Crew 1: The Sounders' Sanna Nyassi netted the game-tying (38th minute) and go-ahead (66th minute) goals to lift Seattle to its second straight championship in front of an Open Cup-record crowd of 31,311 on Oct. 5 at Qwest Field. The Crew's Kevin Burns managed to give Columbus a lead in the 24th minute despite Seattle dictating most of the early chances.
"It was a scrappy one, but we got it done," Fire defender Jalil Anibaba said.
Sebastian Grazzini netted a first-half penalty-kick goal and Dominic Oduro tallied a second-half game-winner as Chicago advanced to its sixth Open Cup final appearance. The Fire have won the Open Cup four previous times (1998, 2000, 2003 and 2006) and were the runners-up in 2004.
"Opportunities like this, you can't let them slip away," Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas said. "It was a special moment for the team, for our fans obviously, to put ourselves in this situation now in the final, to have an opportunity to win something. We knew what was at stake."
Chicago faces Seattle Sounders FC in this year's title match. Seattle defeated FC Dallas, 1-0, in Tuesday's other semifinal, and the Sounders host the Fire for the championship on Oct. 4. Seattle won the 2009 and 2010 Open Cups and is vying for a three-peat.
The third-division Kickers came out with energy and moments of possession in the early going, but a defensive foul swung the match in the Fire's favor. Fire forward Patrick Nyarko was tripped up in the box by Richmond's David Hertel, and in the 32nd minute Grazzini capitalized with the penalty-kick goal for a 1-0 lead.
A few minutes earlier in the 28th, Nyarko fell down in the box against Henry Kalungi, but referee Jasen Anno did not feel there was enough contact to merit a penalty shot.
Oduro gave the Fire a 2-0 cushion in the 61st minute. Nyarko had the setup and Oduro did the rest to elude his defender and strike the ball toward the right side of the frame.
"I thought it was a world-class goal," Klopas said. "Just bended it up and in. Just fantastic."
But the Kickers' William Yomby responded quickly in the 68th minute as his header hit the crossbar and bounced just over the goal line to cut Chicago's lead to 2-1. Michael Callahan had the assist as the Fire defense wasn't alert on the sequence.
"They had two guys, actually, unmarked and they got the ball into the back of the net," Anibaba said. "I think we just weren't ready and we were unorganized. It was just a lack of focus on our part."
Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson made one save in the ninth minute and did not face another shot on goal during the rest of the match. Richmond goalkeeper Ronnie Pascale made three saves.
Grazzini injured his hamstring in the first half and was unable to go in the second half. Klopas substituted midfielder Baggio Husidic into the match for the final 45 minutes.
"He tweaked his hamstring, so we have to evaluate (Wednesday)," Klopas said. "Hopefully it's not too bad."
Fire midfielder Pavel Pardo, who left Saturday's game against the Colorado Rapids because of a calf strain, did not suit up for Chicago on Tuesday.
Richmond's David Bulow, who entered Tuesday scoring a tournament-leading six goals in Open Cup action, was ineligible for the match because of yellow card accumulation.
During the Fire's upcoming week and a half break from action, Chicago forward Orr Barouch will be representing Israel's U-21 squad for a match on Monday against England. Fire midfielder Marco Pappa will be playing for Guatemala when his side faces St. Vincent/Grenadines on Friday and Belize next Tuesday.
How it happened: Fire midfielder Sebastian Grazzini tallied a penalty kick goal in the 32nd minute to take a 1-0 lead. The PK resulted from Fire forward Patrick Nyarko being tripped up in the box by the Kickers' David Hertel. Fire forward Dominic Oduro pushed the lead to 2-0 with a strong cut to the right, losing his defender and then finding the right side of the frame. The Kickers responded in the 68th minute with a header goal from William Yomby that hit the crossbar and deflected down across the goal line to cut Chicago's lead to 2-1.
What it means: The Fire advanced to their sixth Open Cup championship appearance and will take on Seattle Sounders FC. The Sounders topped FC Dallas, 1-0, in Tuesday's other semifinal and will host Chicago on Oct. 4 for the title game. Seattle won the 2009 and 2010 Open Cups over D.C. United and the Columbus Crew, respectively.
Outside the box: Fire midfielder Pavel Pardo, who left Saturday's game against the Colorado Rapids because of a calf strain, did not suit up for Chicago on Tuesday. ... Richmond's David Bulow, who entered Tuesday scoring a tournament-leading six goals in Open Cup action, was ineligible for the match because of yellow card accumulation.
Up next: The Fire resume MLS action when they face the San Jose Earthquakes on Sept. 10 at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. Chicago will be looking for its third straight win in league play.
The same cannot be said for some other MLS squads, and you only have to look at the Fire's 4-0 quarterfinal win over a reserve-laden New York Red Bulls side on July 12 to come to that conclusion.
But the semifinal round will not have that type of aura to it as Chicago hosts the USL Pro's Richmond Kickers on Tuesday at Toyota Park (broadcast available at Chicago-Fire.com). Being the only non-MLS team remaining in this year's tournament, the Kickers no doubt will try everything to halt the Fire's deepest run in the Open Cup since their 2006 championship over the Los Angeles Galaxy.
"This is a tournament that we take very seriously," Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas said. "This has been one of our goals from the beginning, to put ourselves in a position to win the U.S. Open Cup. Now we have a great opportunity on Tuesday. We're not going to underestimate anyone."
Chicago is in the midst of its most successful stretch of the 2010 MLS season. The Fire (4-7-15) posted back-to-back shutout victories against Toronto FC on Aug. 21 and the Colorado Rapids on Saturday.
Richmond's USL Pro campaign came to a close on Saturday when the Kickers fell to Orlando City, 3-0, in the American Division finals. Orlando advanced to the league's title match, which the team is hosting on Saturday against Harrisburg City.
That puts the focus squarely on the third-division club's Open Cup run. The Kickers advanced to the 1995 Open Cup final and defeated the El Paso Patriots, 4-2, in penalties. During Richmond's '95 run, the Kickers topped the Chicago Stingers, 4-3, in the semifinal round.
Richmond has advanced to the quarterfinal stage of the tournament four times over the past 11 years, and in its Open Cup history has posted a 5-8 record against MLS teams. The Kickers topped MLS's Sporting Kansas City in this year's quarterfinal, 2-0, with Shaka Bangura and David Bulow netting goals. Bulow has a tournament-high six goals.
"I've seen tapes of Richmond when they played Kansas City, and they have pace," Klopas said. "They're a team that's well-organized. So we have to come and make sure that we're ready to play for 90 minutes. The good thing is that we're playing at home, for sure. We feel great about that, in front of our home fans."
The winner of Tuesday's match will take on either Seattle Sounders FC or FC Dallas. Should the Fire advance and if Dallas wins its semifinal, Chicago would host the Open Cup final on Oct. 4 at Toyota Park. If the Fire and Sounders win, Seattle will host the championship. The Kickers will play on the road if they advance past Tuesday.
The Fire and Kickers have met once before. Chicago topped the Kickers, 1-0, on Aug. 4, 2004, in the Open Cup quarterfinals. That year Chicago advanced to the title match, only to fall to the Kansas City Wizards.
The Fire's communications department said on Sunday that midfielder Pavel Pardo should be available for Tuesday. Pardo was subbed out at halftime of the Fire's 2-0 win over Colorado on Saturday for a hamstring strain. Daniel Paladini was Pardo's replacement, and Paladini came up with a clutch goal-line stop to maintain a shutout against the Rapids.
Despite some upcoming national team call-ups, the Fire will have their full team on hand for Richmond. Orr Barouch was called up to Israel's U-21 squad for a match next Monday against England. Midfielder Marco Pappa was called in to play for Guatemala when it faces St. Vincent/Grenadines on Friday and Belize next Tuesday. Both players will depart after Tuesday's Open Cup match.
The Fire's schedule works out perfectly as Chicago does not have a regular-season match during their call-ups. Chicago resumes MLS action on Sept. 10 against the San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium.
That was the clear-cut difference in Tuesday's Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal match, and the Fire took advantage of the situation. Orr Barouch led the way with two second-half goals, and Dominic Oduro and Yamith Cuesta also added tallies as the Fire prevailed, 4-0, at Toyota Park.
"Games like this sometimes are never easy," Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas said. "I think it was important more than anything was the attitude we came out with."
The Fire will host the USL Pro's Richmond Kickers for an Aug. 30 semifinal match. Richmond defeated host Sporting Kansas City, 2-0, late Tuesday night. The Kickers are the last remaining non-MLS team involved in the tournament.
The Fire's Open Cup road has looked promising. Chicago now has a USL Pro team on the docket and had an easy path getting past a Red Bulls organization that rested the majority of its key players Tuesday.
"Regardless of whoever they brought out there, I thought we played well," Oduro said. "That's what we're looking for is confidence going forward into the semifinals. I think we did well out there. We controlled the whole game."
Oduro got the Fire going with a seventh-minute goal for a 1-0 lead. Marco Pappa slotted the ball in and Cristian Nazarit got a quick touch to get the ball to Oduro. Oduro cut to his right a little bit to take the shot. Red Bulls goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul did get a piece of the ball, but Oduro's shot clipped the bottom of the crossbar and went into the back of the net.
Cuesta gave the Fire a 2-0 lead in the 48th minute with a header goal off of a Daniel Paladini cross from the left side. The setup came after Paladini took a short corner kick to Fire defender Gonzalo Segares. Paladini wrapped around Segares to an onside position to receive the ball, then crossed it to the far right post where an unmarked Cuesta timed his leap perfectly to head the ball into the net past Coundoul.
Chicago broke the match wide open when second-half sub Barouch tallied a goal in the 51st minute for a 3-0 cushion. Segares set up Barouch, whose shot took a deflection off of a Red Bulls defender and Coundoul could not adjust as the ball deflected off of the left post and went in.
Barouch pushed the Fire lead to 4-0 with his second goal in the 69th minute. The Fire's Diego Chaves played a through ball to Barouch, who then eluded his defender and shot the ball past Coundoul for a four-goal advantage.
The Red Bulls dressed only 14 players, with a bulk of the big guns such as Thierry Henry, Tim Ream and Joel Lindpere not traveling with the squad.
The Red Bulls did show some occasional stretches of possession in the first half -- mostly in the midfield. When it came to creating an impact in the offensive third, New York was quiet. In the defensive third, the Red Bulls made errant passes and allowed the Fire to have plenty of space to work with.
The only scoring chance that the Red Bulls developed in the first half came from Mehdi Ballouchy in the 43rd minute. John Rooney set Ballouchy up, and Fire defender Cuesta was not able to track Ballouchy closely. Ballouchy had only Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson in the way of the goal, but his rolling left-footed shot missed wide right.
New York's Corey Hertzog took a couple of shots in the second half, but his strikes were over the crossbar and wide right.
How it happened: Fire second-half sub Orr Barouch made the most of his 45-minute stint with goals in the 51st and 69th minutes. Dominic Oduro started the Fire's offensive barrage with a seventh-minute goal. Yamith Cuesta's 48th-minute header gave Chicago a 2-0 lead, and Barouch's tallies broke the match wide open.
What it means: The Fire, four-time winners of the Open Cup, advance to the semifinals and will host the USL Pro's Richmond Kickers on Aug. 30. Richmond, the last remaining non-MLS side involved in the tournament, defeated host Sporting Kansas City, 2-0, late Tuesday night. The Open Cup final takes place on Oct. 4.
Outside the box: Fire defender Cory Gibbs missed the match because of food poisoning. The Fire rested Gibbs in the third-round match against the USL Pro's Rochester Rhinos. Josip Mikulic stepped into the fray at center back alongside Cuesta.
Up next: The Fire return to MLS play when they host the expansion Portland Timbers for the first time at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
The match against fellow MLS side New York Red Bulls originally was scheduled for 7:30 p.m. But Toyota Park still is affected by a power outage from Monday morning's severe thunderstorm and cannot play under the lights.
The match will be streamed live on Chicago-Fire.com, and the Fire are offering free admission to the general public. Gates open at 3:30 p.m. and parking is free.
Fire personnel have stated on more than a few occasions that they are taking this year's Open Cup seriously, and they hope to advance past the quarterfinals when they host their fellow MLS side New York Red Bulls on Tuesday at Toyota Park.
The Red Bulls and Fire are both coming off Saturday losses in MLS play. New York fell to D.C. United, 1-0, while Chicago suffered a 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Even though the Fire are coming off a loss to the Galaxy, the team was satisfied with the bulk of its play. Giving up two goals on set pieces ultimately marked the difference.
"I thought we kept to our game plan, but the game slipped away because of two set plays," Fire forward Cristian Nazarit said after the match. "But that is how soccer is. We have to continue working, because on Tuesday we have an important match."
The Fire edged the USL Pro's Rochester Rhinos, 1-0, in their previous Open Cup match on June 28 in Rochester, N.Y. In that match, the Fire went with a completely different defensive line than Chicago's previous MLS match against New York two days prior.
It would make sense for central defender Josip Mikulic to get some starting minutes Tuesday. Because of the red card Mikulic picked up while he was on the bench against L.A., that makes him unavailable for Chicago's match against the Portland Timbers on Saturday. It might be in the Fire's best interest to utilize his services Tuesday in place of veteran Cory Gibbs.
Fire left back Gonzalo Segares had to miss the Rochester match because of a red card he picked up during Chicago's play-in match against the San Jose Earthquakes on May 28. Segares should be an available option Tuesday.
The Red Bulls appear as though they will rest a large portion of their starting crew. That certainly was the vibe following last weekend's game against D.C.
"We have a week to get rested and get healthy again, and come out next weekend and hopefully get some more points," New York goalkeeper Greg Sutton told NewYorkRedBulls.com, without mention of the Open Cup.
Several Red Bulls players who did not travel with the team include team scoring leader Thierry Henry, 18-year-old forward Juan Agudelo, midfielder Joel Lindpere and defender Tim Ream.
The four-time Open Cup champion Fire hope to have a better showing than their last Open Cup match at Toyota Park. Last year, Chicago was shut out in penalty kicks, 3-0, against the Charleston Battery in its third-round match on June 29, 2010.