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:
Select shots from the Fire's win over the Rapids
CREDIT: Brian Kersey
The Chicago Fire's Chris Rolfe, Logan Pause and Frank Klopas took part in U.S. Soccer's Centennial celebration and World Cup qualifying viewing party Tuesday night at Chicago's Grant Park.
Check out photos from the event below:
After a rousing comeback against Portland last time out in the league, the Fire start a busy period Wednesday night against a tricky Colorado Rapids team (LIVE 7pm CT on My50) who just their six-game unbeaten streak snapped at the weekend by San Jose Earthquakes. Here are some things to look out for from a tactical perspective:
Exposing the Rapids center backs: targeting Drew Moor and Marvell Wynne
Colorado's usual starting pair at the center of the defense is Shane O'Neill and Drew Moor but with the Irish-born youngster in Turkey with the US U-20 team, right back Marvell Wynne has slotted into the middle.
Against San Jose last week, this pairing had a lot of trouble, especially when the Quakes attacking players separated and isolated the center backs.
The movement of Rolfe and Magee, both very mobile strikers, could open up the Colorado defense. If the Fire’s attacking pair can draw Moor/Wynne out, it can lead to space being created behind them, something San Jose did well last weekend.
Keeping an eye on Deshorn Brown - the rookie has 4 assists this season
Similar to my thoughts a few weeks ago about D.C. rookie Kyle Porter, Deshorn Brown has caught my eye for Colorado this season.
Playing on the left of a front three he’s dangerous and a good supplier of the ball for striker Edson Buddle. Much of Colorado's chances in the past few matches have come from Brown’s side.
Larentowicz, Duka Preview Colorado
The Rapids will be without Atiba Harris after his red against San Jose last week which puts even more emphasis on Brown to step up in the Kittitian’s absence.
Right-sided players Jalil Anibaba and Patrick Nyarko will need to be very wary of the rookie on Wednesday night.
Fire squad rotation - my case in for it
The Men in Red have a tough stretch of 4 games in 11 days and it would be very demanding on the players to try and stick with the same starting XI for all four because of a risk of burnout.
A more likely approach would be one of steady and not drastic rotation meaning making a few changes each match and not starting a completely different team. This is of course assuming the team doesn't pick up any injuries or suspensions during this stretch.
Giving a few players a break Wednesday night with one eye on the tough away Eastern Conference match against Columbus on Saturday might be a worthwhile policy for head coach Frank Klopas.
Fire squad rotation - my case against
Something fans have criticized coach Klopas for is sticking to a regular starting XI and not making too many changes from game to game.
That being said, the team is currently unbeaten in four games and if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
The last 20 minutes against Portland last weekend was the team’s best spell all season and if they can continue that form the next few weeks could see us in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals and moving closer to the MLS Cup playoff positions in the East.
With the back line finally stable and the Mike Magee/Chris Rolfe partnership starting to really gel, there is a strong case for coach Klopas to stick with the same XI during this run of games.
Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @Irish_Steve.
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.