We all dream of winning Open Cups! That’s right, the Fire are back in the Open Cup, looking for a return to the final and a record-tying fifth championship as they enter the tournament’s third round tonight away to the PDL’s Michigan Bucks in Pontiac, Mich.
A live stream of the match will be carried via Chicago-Fire.com beginning at 6:30pm CT with Brendan Hannan on the call.
Here are five things you should know about tonight’s match vs. the Bucks…
1) UNAVAILABLE…Given the team’s schedule of four matches in 10 days, Fire head coach Frank Klopas has elected to rest midfielders Logan Pause, Pavel Pardo and Sebastian Grazzini for this match. Another starter, Marco Pappa, is unavailable for selection after joining up with the Guatemalan national team ahead of their friendly vs. Costa Rica on Friday.
2) RETURNING HOME…Former Buck Tony Walls will hope to make his Fire competitive debut upon his return to Ultimate Soccer Arenas tonight. The Wauwatosa, Wisc. product appeared in 24 matches for the Bucks during the 2009 and 2011 seasons (Walls played for the Fire PDL in 2011). Fire forward Kheli Dube, who was inducted into the Bucks Hall of Fame last season, did not travel with the team after suffering a toe injury last week.
3) DON’T TAKE THEM LIGHTLY… While the Bucks are a Premier Development League side, the Fire’s less memorable history in this tournament should serve as good reason not to take them lightly. When the Fire have played a third round match in the U.S. Open Cup, they’ve gone 5-4-1, with all four defeats coming against lower league opposition.
I wrote yesterday about the Bucks making their name in this tournament by being the first PDL team to knock off an MLS side with a 1-0 victory over New England in the 2000 edition of the tournament. Times have changed since then – MLS rosters are deeper and feature better players. Even without their starting midfield, the Fire are favorites and should be expected to put their stamp on a game against a team made up of mostly college players.
4) LEADING GOAL SCORER AND WHO TO WATCH… File this one under “facts you get from someone that used to work for the team”, but Bucks forward Kenny Uzoigwe is the USL Premier Development League’s all-time leading goal scorer. Now into his seventh season with the Bucks, the 33-year-old target man earned the distinction by tallying seven goals last season to take his career tally to 83. A long-time symbol of the team, Uzoigwe has started off the 2012 campaign where he left off last year, tallying two more through the team’s first two league matches (both wins).
With PDL rosters turning over a lot from year-to-year, its not always easy to know how a team is playing.... A few notes though: 2007 Chicago Fire fourth round SuperDraft selection Simon Omekanda is back with the Bucks after stints in the lower leagues of Sweden and France. Most of the attack should be spear-headed through Omekanda, Trinidadian striker Stefan St. Louis and Uzoigwe at the top. In the middle of the park, the Bucks have received a combined four goals and two assists from Oakland Unviersity midfielder Tommy Catalano and Butler's Zach Steinberger.
Defensively, out-of-college players Sebbe Harris (who spent time as a forward for English side Northampton Town), Stew Givens and former Fire PDL player Kevin Cope should be shoring up the backline.
5) MY MISTAKE…I wrote in yesterday’s “Knowing Your Opposition” Blog that Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup match at Ultimate Soccer Arenas would be the first-ever Fire match indoors. That would have been true had the team not played at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal to start the season...
I should have known that one. I was there and I remember it quite well. I suppose I’ll chalk it up to the heat wave… Sorry about that!
Aside from being indoors, the two venues are still quite different. The now four-year old indoor soccer facility is expected to provide a capacity crowd of 2,000, providing the Detroit soccer community with a much more intimate MLS experience tonight. See photo below...