Chicago Fire: Richmond Kickers

Fire top Kickers to reach Open Cup final

August, 30, 2011
8/30/11
10:25
PM CT
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- It was not the smoothest of performances for the Chicago Fire. But the home side did its job on Tuesday in topping the USL Pro's Richmond Kickers, 2-1, in the semifinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup at Toyota Park.

"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.

Rapid Reaction: Fire 2, Kickers 1

August, 30, 2011
8/30/11
9:30
PM CT
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Here is a quick look at the Chicago Fire's 2-1 victory against the USL Pro's Richmond Kickers on Tuesday in a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinal at Toyota Park:

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.

Fire aim for 6th Open Cup final appearance

August, 29, 2011
8/29/11
1:20
PM CT
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- The four-time Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup champion Chicago Fire have touted their best available lineup throughout this year's tournament.

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.

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