Earlier Thursday morning I was once again invited back to U.S. Soccer Federation headquarters in downtown Chicago to witness the semifinal round Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup coin flips.
Let me be honest, unlike the previous three rounds, Thursday's process was the simplest I've witnessed.
That's because even before showing up at Soccer House on Thursday morning, U.S. Soccer had already confirmed what the potential semifinal pairings would be earlier this week based on geography.
Combine that with all eight quarterfinal teams applying to host the semifinals, literally all that was needed was to flip the famous bicentennial silver dollar twice.
Still, Competition Secretary Paul Marstaller kept things official, handing out the same formatted paper which clearly listed the matchups and assigned heads and tails.
That sheet looked like this:
|D.C. United/New England Revolution||Chicago Fire/Orlando City*|
|Real Salt Lake/Carolina RailHawks*||Portland Timbers/FC Dallas|
If I can be bold enough to say, every time the Fire have come up in a coin flip, I honestly get this strange excitement in my stomach. The feeling of a simple coin going a long way to deciding your team's tournament fate is a thrilling, if not brief emotion.
Luckily for the Fire, the first coin flip landed tails, meaning the winner of next Wednesday's game vs. Orlando City will host the winnder of D.C. United/New England on August 7. This is the third straight flip the Fire have won after losing the initial third round flip to the Charlotte Eagles.
In the second flip, the coin came up heads, meaning the winner of Real Salt Lake/Carolina RailHawks will host the winner of Portland/FC Dallas. The flip was the fourth consecutive win for RSL in the 2013 U.S. Open Cup.
And that was it.
Only one coin flip remains and that's for the final which will be played in early October. I'm told that will go down at some point in July.
All intentions to host the final were due along with intentions for the semifinal on Wednesday, though U.S. Soccer will likely not make that list public until the final coin flips occur.
I can confirm the Chicago Fire have applied to host the 2013 U.S. Open Cup final.
Earlier 2013 Open Cup Coin Flips:
Last year we here at Always on the Inside put our eggs in one basket when it came to #MLSAllStar voting by getting behind talisman winger Patrick Nyarko.
Stealing the Chicago White Sox idea of #TakeJake, (a ploy to get pitcher Jake Peavy to Major League Baseball's All-Star Game), we decided to push the #PickPat hashtag on Twitter. Along with the social calls to action, we got CSN Chicago's Dave Kaplan in on the action, with him displaying this sign on Chicago Tribune Live.
While there was a lot of nice buzz created, in the end, Pat wasn't chosen (though I still think he should have been).
Fast-forward to today when we find out that Mike Magee is second in fan voting among MLS midfielders (even though he's a forward in Chicago) to go to this year's All-Star Game vs. AS Roma at Kansas City's Sporting Park.
- A career high of eight MLS goals in 12 games played this season (currently third most in MLS and definitely most for a "midfielder").
- 10 goals in 14 competitive matches in 2013.
- As of Tuesday, he's never not scored in a match for the Fire, tallying four in as many games since joining the Men in Red last month.
- A true leader on the field and player that has come into his own over his 11-year MLS career.
- While the MLS All-Star Game is a reward for achievement during the first half of the season, we'd be remisce if we didn't mention that Mike Magee has won two MLS Cups and two Supporters Shields over the course of his 11-year MLS career.
- #MikeMageeFacts can truly go national when he's included among the league's best players.
Vote for Mike, Patrick Nyarko, Jeff Larentowicz, Sean Johnson, Austin Berry, Jalil Anibaba and Chris Rolfe by clicking here or by texting the player's last name to 22442 through July 2 at 2pm CT.
The Chicago Fire U16 and U18 Academy sides as well as the U18 Indiana Fire Academy learned their groups for next week’s U.S. Soccer Federation Development Academy National Playoffs set to be held in Dallas, Texas earlier Monday.
UPDATE! U.S. Soccer then realized they had made a mistake with the drawings and held a re-draw for both age groups. Below are the updated groupings for the Chicago Fire U16, U18 and Indiana Fire Academy U18 side...
- Chicago Fire U18s are in Group 1 with Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Houston Dynamo and PA Classics
- Indiana Fire Academy U18s are in Group 7 with Baltimore Bays Chelsea, Chivas USA and De Anza Force (CA)
- Chicago Fire U16s are in Group 1 with De Anza Force (CA), Georgia United and Arsenal FC (CA)
With the USSFDA now into the fourth season of their current playoff format, the Fire Academy is one of just four clubs (out of 80) to see both U16 and U18 sides qualify for the National Playoffs every year.
They’re joined by FC Dallas, CASL (NC) and Concorde Fire (GA) as the four clubs with the current distinction.
The USSFDA National Playoffs feature eight groups of four teams in a round-robin format with the winners of each group advancing to the July’s national finals in Houston, Texas.
Earlier Draw, now null and void:
The Chicago Fire U18 side has been paired in Group 4 with Real Salt Lake (AZ), Dallas Texans and Weston FC (FL) while the Indiana Fire U18s join Vancouver Whitecaps, Pateadores (CA) and Kendall SC (FL) in Group 1.
The Chicago Fire U16s were drawn into Group 3 with PDA (NJ), Colorado Rapids and Revolution Empire (NY).
In what was widely considered one of the best results of 2012, the Chicago Fire earned a 3-1 victory over the New York Red Bulls at Toyota Park on June 17, 2012.
Patrick Nyarko got the scoring going early with a powering fourth minute header which left Red Bull defender Roy Miller on the ground in its wake.
The shortest man in the box would equalize just after halftime as Mehdi Ballouchy picked out Dax McCarthy at the back post to level things at 1-1 in the 55th minute.
The Fire should have gone back ahead nine minutes later. Making his home re-debut, Chris Rolfe slipped Dominic Oduro through the Red Bull back line and the Ghanaian hit a desperate sliding effor that Ryan Meara got a piece of but would trickle all the way over the line.
Despite the whole ball crossing the line, former Fire defender Wilman Conde slid to scoop it out of the net and referee Baldomero Toledo relied on his linesman who waved off the goal, sending Fire players into a bit of fury.
The Fire would rightfully go ahead four minutes later as Gonzalo Segares was fed into the box on the left and saw his first effort saved by Meara before emphatically slamming home the rebound, charging the home crowd up in the 68th minute.
Rolfe would ice the game 13 minutes later when a great piece of individual skill from Nyarko down the right eventually found the veteran Fire striker at the back post for a tap-in, giving the Fire a 3-1 win on Father's Day.
In the Fire's Reserves first foray into the MLS/USL Pro partnership, the team dropped a 2-1 decision away to the Charlotte Eagles at Queens Sports Complex Friday night.
Led by Fire assistant coach Leo Percovich, the team started eight first team players and three from the club's Development Academy sides, two of which (Jake Taylor and James Myall) slotted in as center backs.
The Fire Reserves took the lead just before halftime. In a play quite similar to Patrick Nyarko's winner in Thursday's Open Cup match vs. Columbus, Michael Videira's cross from the right found Quincy Amarikwa at the back post where he headed past Eric Reed to make it 1-0 in the 42nd minute.
Charlotte responded with a number of chances in the second half outshooting the Fire Reserves 12-0, forcing Paolo Tornaghi into eight second half saves. . They would find their two goals in the span of five minutes as Christian Ramirez equalized in the 70th before Ben Newnam found the winner in the 75th.
Two more Fire Academy products Jeff Farina and Hayden Cochrane made cameo second half appearances, meaning the maximum five Academy players were used in the game. The Fire Reserves fall to 1-4 on the 2013 campaign and will welcome the Eagles to Toyota Park on Saturday, June 29 at 7:30pm (Live webcast on Chicago-Fire.com).
For more, visit the match report on CharlotteEagles.com.
Chicago Fire - Paolo Tornaghi; Wells Thompson, James Myall*, Jake Taylor*, Hunter Jumper, Brendan King (Jeff Farina 76'), Mike Videira, Grant Lillard*, Yazid Atouba (Hayden Cochrane 74'); Corben Bone, Quincy Amarikwa
Charlotte Eagles - Eric Reed, Fejiro Okiomah, Matt Gold, Ben Newnam, Shaun Francis (Nick Courtney 46'); Stephen Okai, Sam Asante, Jorge Herrera, Nate Thornton (Will Prado 88'), Juan Guzman (Drew Yates 34'); Christian Ramirez (Tommy Smith 76')
CHI - Quincy Amarikwa (Michael Videira) 42'
CHA - Christian Ramirez (Sam Asante) 70'
CHA - Ben Newnam (unassisted) 75'
CHI - Jake Taylor (caution; Foul) 12'
CHI - Wells Thompson (caution; Foul) 82'
Statistics CHI CHA
Shots: 4 15
Saves: 10 3
Corners: 4 4
Fouls: 16 10
Offsides: 1 2
Referee: Dustin Thorne; Assistant Referees: Ross Cox, Gustavo Solorio; Fourth Official: Brandon Cline
According to the TrueCar Player Registry, Amos Magee played only eight competitives games, three goals and 225 minutes as an A-League "call-up" player for the Men in Red in 2001 and 2002.
In fact, as of now, he has a better strike rate than man of the hour and namesake Mike Magee (three goals in 267 minutes).
Despite his short time with the Fire, the revered lower-league striker wrote a legend of his own in Chicago with one very memorable extra time goal in the 2001 U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal victory over the Pittsburgh Riverhounds at Wheaton College.
In the first of our Fire "Unsung Heroes" series, we speak to Amos "Chesty" Magee about the cult following he earned from his short time with the Fire.
The potential quarterfinal pairings for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup set to be played Wednesday, June 26:
1) Chicago Fire/Columbus Crew winner hosts Sporting Kansas City/Orlando City winner
2) D.C. United/Philadelphia Union winner hosts New England Revolution/New York Red Bulls winner
3) FC Dallas/Houston Dynamo winner hosts Portland Timbers/Tampa Bay Rowdies winner
4) Real Salt Lake/Charleston Battery winner hosts Carolina RailHawks/Chivas USA winner
Click Here to buy tickets for the Fire's Fourth Round USOC match vs. the Columbus Crew (Wednesday June 12th, 7:30pm Toyota Park)
The Fire’s Athletico Injury Report has become much shorter with a number of players coming off the list in the last week.
Daniel Paladini (left calf inflammation), Maicon Santos (right shoulder sprain), Hunter Jumper (right groin tightness) and Yazid Atouba (right ankle sprain) all came off the report over the last week and will be available for selection by Frank Klopas in Sunday’s showdown with D.C. United.
The one addition to the list this week is captain Logan Pause who is listed as questionable after suffering a left groin injury just before halftime of Tuesday’s 2-0 victory over the Charlotte Eagles.
Should he be unable to go, Paladini will most likely step back into the Fire midfield in his stead.
Arne Friedrich is back in Germany again receiving treatment for his hip problem while Steven Kinney remains out with a right quad strain.
Quotes from newly acquired Fire forward Mike Magee and head coach Frank Klopas following Monday's training session at Toyota Park.
Chicago Fire Forward Mike Magee
Reaction from friends and family to his return to Chicago…
“People are coming out of the woodwork. I moved away when I was 15 and I haven’t moved back since. I got a lot of family here, I’ve kept in touch with all my friends so its good to be back to say the least.”
Realizing the trade was a possibility…
“It’s been on my mind pretty much since I left. I tried to get back [here] a couple times in the past and then I think throughout the process with Robbie Rogers, that whole saga with him trying to get to LA, it crept in my mind that somebody had to go to Chicago and I raised my hand.”
On if he thought he would be the player traded…
“No, I didn’t [think it would be me]. I have to thank the Galaxy. I had a good talk with Bruce, mentioned I’m from here and that it was long past due that I get home. The Galaxy were great in facilitating that.”
On if he expects to play this weekend…
“I hope to play on Wednesday. I haven’t spoken to them about what the plans are but they brought me here to play.”
On if the Fire can still make the playoffs…
“Of course. We’re trying to catch Philly who I believe is 10 points ahead of us and we have two games in hand. We have to start getting some points. It’s still a very young season. Even watching the guys, they played well and things aren’t going their way. Little finishes and they’re getting punished for all their mistakes and sometimes that’s how it goes. We’ll get it right.”
On how much he’s watched the team recently…
“Not as much as I’d like to. Obviously I watched the game in Salt Lake and I’ve seen them here and there but I need to catch up quick.”
On if he’s talked to Frank Klopas about his role…
“No we had a general conversation. We were more talking about Chicago things but he knows I like to play forward and midfield. I’m the kind of guy that just wants to be on the field.”
On which spot he prefers playing more…
“It really doesn’t matter to be honest.”
On if he feels pressure coming into a team that hasn’t scored a lot this season…
“I put enough pressure on myself just to perform anyways. It’s obviously added pressure when you’re on the outside of the playoffs looking in. Instantly when the trade became official I felt that pressure but there’s no added pressure to score goals and do anything different than what I’ve done. The main focus is to starting getting points, starting catching Philly.”
On the first time he walked in the Fire locker room…
“It was the first time I was nervous in a while. Obviously there’s awkward conversations and kind of meeting some guys, catching up with some old guys. I haven’t had that feeling since I went to LA.
“Everything was great. It was more than I expected and there were a lot more faces I knew than I thought I would. They have a great environment here but unfortunately the points aren’t showing it.”
On how many guys he knew before coming to the Fire…
“I’ve known Rolfie and Logan [Pause] for a while. [Mike] Matkovich – I’ve known him since I was young. I played for the Sockers and he was a Magic guy so I hated him then. Not so much now.
“I’ve known Frank as well since I was a Fire fan. As cliché as that is, Frank’s a guy I’ve always loved as a player and we’ve kept in touch. Maicon [Santos] from his Chivas days, Wells [Thompson] from us being in the league forever. There’s just a bunch of good guys to be honest.”
On translating his MLS Cup winning experience to the Fire…
“I hope so. It’s weird coming in. I have to cut the cord with LA and try not to mention anything about that. Nobody wants to hear me talk about any of that stuff. Obviously there are certain things that we had there and I’ll try to implement some of those things. I played with some pretty cool players in LA so hopefully I’ll try to take some of the things I learned from them and teach some of the young guys here. They have good leadership here. Larentowicz and Logan are two good guys – good locker room guys.”
Chicago Fire head coach Frank Klopas
I just think there’s opportunities to bring quality players in who with any team, you start the season and obviously you look at situations you have to address. [Bakary Soumare and Mike Magee] are two quality players, I think those are two quality players. They’ll make our team better and add more depth to the squad. There are a lot of games left to play. There was a need in the back with our injury situation so getting a guy like Baky with his experience, I feel he’s missed a lot over the year but every game that he plays once he gets back to his form and fitness level. You saw it the other day and he’s not at the level he should be [yet].
Mike obviously you know his experience but he’s just a quality player. Plus this is a guy from Chicago, here. The pride that he has with the team and what it means for him to be back. I think that’s important – bringing two quality guys that have ties, with Baky starting his career here and Mike being from here, I think that’s important.
On if Mike Magee will play in Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup match at Charlotte…
“I can’t give you my scouting report because everybody’s watching. [Laughs] I think the chances are pretty high.”
On where he envisions Magee playing…
“Goalkeeper, goalkeeper. I’m going to invert positions. Sean’s going to go forward, Mikey’s in the back.
“I think you get him around the goal, that’s where he’s played. Depending on the need, you can move him around but I think around the goal, with his ability to combine and finish plays is quality. I think its important to get him closer to the goal but obviously things can change depending on what happens or the circumstances with injuries because he can play out wide also or in the midfield.”
On taking momentum from Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Real Salt Lake into Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup match at Charlotte.
“It’s one game but it’s something to build on. Cup games – you look around the world, you can’t underestimate them. They’re difficult matches if you approach them in the wrong way. We need to be very focused and serious and it’s a tournament that we enter because we want to win. I think there are four banners up there that show the success the club has had and we want to do everything that we possibly can to try to put ourselves in a position to win. We start Wednesday and we need to be very focused and not underestimate anyone. You see upsets all over the world with games like this. The guys understand that, they’re focused and ready and we’re going to put out the best squad to give us a chance to win.”
On if Mike Magee’s MLS Cup championship experience is something that can translate in Chicago…
“For sure. With his experience and also being in games like that. He’s been around different teams and played with a lot of great players that he’s benefited from but also they’ve benefited from him. You can put some guys to play next to Messi but you have to have some quality too. For sure that experience will help but he’s just a quality player. He’s easy to play with but also makes everyone around him better and he’s from Chicago.”
On if Soumare and Magee’s ties to Chicago will help with the transition process…
“Í think that helps a lot but also these are guys within the league. They know the league well but also they feel at home here. Baky started here, Mike grew up here, his family is here and Baky has a lot of people here he calls family. I think that’s important but more than anything they’re guys that really care about the club.
"There’s a deep meaning to these guys and there’s a pride when they put the jersey on. You have to care, it’s gotta be something that hurts inside when you don’t do well. It might not be the same for any other club but for us, that’s what it means here. When we walk around, we have a lot of passion for the team, the city and soccer here in this town. For me and my staff and guys like Baky and Mike and the rest of the team, that’s how we feel. You gotta care, you gotta be honored to put that jersey on and that’s what it means to these guys.”
Frank Klopas, Chicago Fire Head Coach
Overall thoughts on the game
“That it’s a good result. You get a point over here, it’s not an easy place to play. Obviously, you know, we wanted to be better with the ball in possession with a team that kind of controls the game. You know, we gave up a lot of possession, thus we had to chase a lot of the game. But I thought our guys, even going down one goal, showed a lot of heart and character. Again, the point here was something to build on.”
If this will change the situation for the Fire
“Well, we hope so. It’s one game. We’ll take it a game at a time. But, you know, any time you can pick up points on the road – especially in this place here, it’s a very good team – It’s something to build on, it’s positive. We have a long way to go, it’s a long season. But for us right now, it’s one game at a time and continue to keep working. My team showed a lot of character.”
If injuries were the difference
“No, it’s ok. The guys have been good, you know. I mean, they didn’t give up when Saborio came in and scored a great goal and that’s going to happen. I thought Sean made some great saves and guys gave everything on the field. We had some chances, but like I said, it’s not an easy place to play and obviously getting a point, we’ll take that and look to build on this.”
On Sean Johnson’s performance tonight
“Yeah, you need that. When you’re on the road, you know, you obviously need to defend well as a team and need your goalkeeper to step up big, which Sean did and when you get your chances, you know, put them away. I thought we had some not good looks, but we got in good spots and some final pass execution, this or that, we weren’t as clear in the final third or as good in the final third. But we found a way to come back and, obviously, a big key to that was Sean. With the saves that he made and with that team working extremely hard, especially when we didn’t have as much possession in the game. Like I said, it’s something to build on, it’s a difficult place to play. It’s a really good team.”
On making adjustments after the Saborio goal
“We had to push the game. We took out Logan, who’s a little bit more defensive minded, we put another forward out, we dropped Alex, who we thought would give us a lot more in the final third so we had to push the game at that point.
On snapping the scoreless streak
“No, it’s a point. It’s difficult, you know, when you don’t score goals in six games to get a positive result. The good thing is that in those matches we created opportunities. We just got to concentrate and our focus has got to be better in the final third. I think any time you can score, I think again, even tonight coming from behind shows a lot of character. That it’s good if you can take leads early on, takes a lot of pressure from the team. But being able to score and get a point here, like I said, in a difficult place against a very good team is something to build on for us.”
On the Fire’s two new players
“Yes, one played tonight and Baky’s [Soumare] an excellent player and I think he just needs time. He had a minor injury that kept him away for a long time and now he’s getting in a little bit of a rhythm playing. I think the more games he gets under the better he’s going to get, but he brings a lot of quality to us. Same as Mike Magee, a kid from Chicago, he’s done extremely well. He’s a quality player, someone that’s going to add to more quality in the final third for us.”
Joel Lindpere, Chicago Fire Midfielder
On the team’s performance
“I think we pulled it out and it was a team effort, so I think we continued to battle. They come home to play and I haven’t tied or won here in my career so always when I come here it is very tough with the altitude and they play very good here at home so for me they are one of the strongest home teams in the league. We were down 1-0 and I think today the subs helped us out. We have many games and we always use three subs and we pull out starters and bring fresh guys in. I think today they really helped us. It shows that we really are one team and we fight in very tough situations, as we are in now. We are capable of earning three points and we have to start somewhere. Everybody hopes that this is the start where we can move up so we are going to keep going and concentrate on D.C. United who has also been in a very difficult situation, so it’s going to be an interesting game for both teams.”
Jeff Larentowicz, Chicago Fire Midfielder
On the team’s performance and what the result means for the team
“For us it’s a good result. I think that for any team to come here and get a point is good. They’re a tough team to play at Rio Tinto and we’re a team that’s struggling so for us to get a point on the road is good.”
On the addition of Mike Magee
“You know we’ll see. I’m not sure what the coaches have planned for him but you know when he comes in we’ll welcome him. He has shown he can score goals this year so at the moment we’ll welcome him.”