Blog

U.S. Open Cup

29 August 10:01 am

I’ll be honest, the 2012 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup became sort of an afterthought following the Fire’s disappointing overtime exit to the Michigan Bucks back in May.

I believe FDR biographer Hugh Gallagher said it best when speaking about the former President’s attitude towards his paralysis, “Denial is a useful thing in its place.” With the team knocked out, it just became easier to take this route.  

Of course as the summer went on and the tournament reached its final rounds, we were all faced with the scary prospect of seeing Seattle Sounders FC equal our club’s MLS-record four Open Cup titles. Come mid-July, the only thing that stood in their way was Sporting KC, who to some great resentment in Cascadia, outbid the three-time defending champions to host the final at LiveSTRONG Sporting Park.

With the news that his second-year stadium would host the final, Sporting CEO and serial tweeter Robb Heineman was understandably excited and encouraged the traveling support from Seattle to join in what would be a vibrant night at his newish stadium.

It is well known in MLS supporter’s circles that LiveSTRONG isn’t exactly as open in accommodating away fans in the same way that most other MLS stadia are (mainly with the use of flag poles). With that in mind, Sporting KC supporter @KarahM318 followed up on his tweet and Heineman even went a step further.  

Flag poles for the final! Why not?

Certainly Heineman had already recognized the stature of the occasion when the bid money cleared his checking account but it was a great move on the club’s part to allow Sounders FC fans to support their team in a way they're used to in the Final.

Despite severe weather that delayed the start of the match, the audible and visual atmosphere created by both sides was fantastic. While we’re no fan of rave green in these parts, the contrasting flags (on poles) looked great.

(Photo Courtesy of Aaron Riner)

Of course in the end, Sporting thwarted Seattle’s bid to tie the Fire’s Open Cup record and for that, we’re all thankful.

Perhaps enthused by KC’s willingness to allow Seattle fans help create more atmosphere at the match, Section 8 Chicago Chairman Joel Biden tweeted to Heineman asking if the same courtesy would be afforded Fire supporters upon their visit there in September…

Robb’s response…

And this leads to the crux of the problem.

I have the utmost respect for Robb Heineman and what his group has accomplished in KC but if memory serves, it was he that was the biggest champion of his club’s new-found rivalry with the Fire last year. Seeing rivalries as organic things that come through supporters and a history of on-the-field battles, the Fire front office didn’t go along with the “plan”.

Given Heineman’s tweet, I’m left to wonder if he and Sporting have left the “rivalry” behind and if that’s the case, then why?

Does it have to do with the Fire’s domination since it “started”? (The Men in Red are 3-0-1 against Sporting KC since it “began” last year).

If not, I have to ask why the season series finale against your biggest rival, one that has certain MLS Cup playoff implications isn’t deemed, “special”? Certainly allowing the traveling support from Chicago to wave flags in your stadium will make your place that much better for the national television audience tuning in on NBC Sports Network…

When Sporting KC brought 400 people to watch the Men in Red take one of their aforementioned “rivalry” victories this past May, the Fire allowed those from the KC Cauldron to wave flags in support of their team throughout the 2-1 loss. It’s a practice that’s long been in place at Toyota Park, even going back to those days that Sporting were known as the Wizards (see photo below).

Maybe it's supporter-style gamesmanship, or perhaps PVC piping is just more dangerous in Kansas but the vast majority of MLS stadia allow this type of support from both sides of fans.

MLS has a league-wide list of in-stadium Supporters Exemptions that allow for the use of drums, horns and other musical instruments, banners and signs that meet what can be described as a “good taste” criteria and most importantly to this blog, flags on poles.

The caveat is that all use of the above items are “permitted at locations and times determined by the club or venue management.”

LiveSTRONG Sporting Park security has already proven capable of dealing with the waving flags in the stands, so really what is the issue?

Should MLS stadia that currently allow this type of support take a “quid pro quo” approach with fans whose home venues do not? Should there be a true, across the board set of standards for visiting supporters throughout the league’s 19 home venues?

In either case, I challenge Fire supporters to agitate for this right at LiveSTRONG Sporting Park when the team looks to sweep the season series there on Friday, September 28.

If you agree with this article, tweet it or even just your thoughts on the subject to @SportingKC and most importantly their CEO @RobbHeineman using hashtag #FearTheFlag. Or use the tweet button to the right and it'll do it all for you!

Flag poles or not, a contingent from Section 8 Chicago and Sector Latino will be heading to support the Fire at next month's all-important match at LiveSTRONG Sporting Park. Secure your bus and match ticket by clicking here

09 August 3:31 pm

#3  - Chicago Fire 3, LA Galaxy 1 - September 27, 2006  -  Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final  -  Toyota Park, Bridgeview, IL

Vying for an MLS-record fourth U.S. Open Cup trophy, the Fire put their best foot forward against the LA Galaxy when Nate Jaqua scored in the opening minutes of the game (10’). Jaqua scored off of a diving header to knock in the ball which had been pinging around the box after a free kick. Six minutes later, Andy Herron would head in a crossed ball from Justin Mapp, pushing the Fire up 2-0. To make the match more interesting, LA’s Alan Gordon pulled one back in the 51st minute. Still, the Men in Red did not back down as the game wore on. Fire winger Tony Sanneh burned down the left side and passed across the box to Thiago, who chipped the ball into the goal in front of a celebratory Section 8 at Toyota Park.

#2  - Chicago Fire 2, Columbus Crew 1 (asdet) - October 30, 1998  -  U.S. Open Cup Final  -  Soldier Field, Chicago, IL

One week prior to the Fire’s first appearance in the US Open Cup final, they had won the MLS Cup in California. With an excited 18,615 fans greeting them at Soldier Field, the Fire had reached the final game of their inaugural season. Only a minute before the end of the first half, the Columbus Crew goalkeeper Juergen Sommer gave up a penalty. Fire striker Jerzy Podbrozny calmly buried the penalty kick. The Crew, however, leveled the match in the 53rd minute with a goal from Stern John. Tied at the end of regulation, the match headed into extra time. Finally, in the 99th minute, the Fire got their chance from a corner kick. The short kick dropped to Ante Razov, who headed it downward in front of goal. Frank Klopas was there to receive the pass and lifted the ball into the upper netting to give the Fire the “double” in their first season in Major League Soccer.

#1 - Chicago Fire 2, D.C. United 1 - October 25, 1998  -  MLS Cup Final  -  Rose Bowl, California

After going 20-12 in their inaugural season (draws led to shootouts at the time), the Fire made their way to the MLS Cup Final against D.C. United, who had reigned as champions since 1996, the first two years of MLS’ existence. Goalkeeper Zach Thornton stepped up on the day, making 8 saves to keep the clean sheet. The first goal from the Fire was assisted by Peter Nowak, who drew out the goalkeeper before laying the ball to Jerzy Podbrozny to score. The second goal was also assisted by Nowak, who made a run along the edge of the box before shooting. Nowak’s shot deflected off of Diego Gutierrez, who was credited with the goal.

Stay tuned next week as we begin our #Fire15 Goals Countdown... Check out our previous Memorable Matches videos below:

Memorable Matches 4-6
Memorable Matches 7-9

Memorable Matches 10-12
Memorable Matches 13-15

06 August 6:16 am

#6 - Chicago Fire 2, Tampa Bay Mutiny 0 -  April 4, 1998  -  MLS Regular Season Match  -  Soldier Field, Chicago, IL

In their first home match in Major League Soccer history, the Fire were taking on the now-defunct Tampa Bay Mutiny at Soldier Field. With a hearty crowd of 36,444, the Fire would deliver results on this spring night. Frank Klopas got the first goal of the match in the 43rd minute, with an assist from Zak Ibsen. Klopas would score again in the 88th to secure a brace and lead the Fire to their first home victory. The total combination of the inaugural home game, a 2-0 win, and two goals from the Fire’s future coach would make this a match to be remembered.

#5 - Chicago Fire 1, New England Revolution 0 - November 14, 2003  -  Eastern Conference Final  -  Soldier Field, Chicago, IL

The Fire outshot rivals New England Revolution 20 to 7 in this physical Eastern Conference Final. With neither side scoring in regular time, the match went into extra time. It took until the 101st minute for the Fire to score, off the back of a run from substitute Justin Mapp toward the goal line. Mapp cut the ball back, passing to the center of the six-yard box. Damani Ralph then attempted a weak shot, but it surely would have been saved without captain Chris Armas there to finish it off. At the time, the golden goal rule applied, meaning that the game was complete and the Fire were Eastern Conference champions.

#4  - Chicago Fire 2, Miami Fusion 1 -  October 21, 2000  -  Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final  -  Soldier Field, Chicago, IL

In the 44th minute, Fire legend Ante Razov broke past the Miami Fusion defense on a breakaway. After drawing out the goalkeeper and dribbling past him to the side of the six-yard box, Razov centered the ball to Hristo Stoitchkov. Soitchkov easily slid the ball past one defender to score the first goal of the match. Later, Fire favorite DaMarcus Beasley streamed down the left wing, beating his defender. Beasley put a low cross into the dangerous area in front of goal and Fusion defender Tyrone Marshall mistakenly knocked the ball into the net for an own goal. While the Fusion would grab a goal through Welton once before the match was finished, the Fire had put in enough effort to win the match, counting them as US Open Cup champions for the second time.

Stay tuned later this week for the final three matches in our #Fire15 Countdown... Check out our previous countdown videos below:

Memorable Matches 7-9
Memorable Matches 10-12
Memorable Matches 13-15

23 July 9:17 am

 

In our third installment of the #Fire15 Memorable Matches countdown, we look back to the 2009 Eastern Conference semifinal vs. New England, the 2003 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final at the MetroStars and the 2001 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinal at LA Galaxy. 

#9 - Chicago Fire 2, New England Revolution 0 - November 7, 2009  -  Eastern Conference Semifinals, Second Leg  -  Toyota Park, Bridgeview, IL

 In the first leg of the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Revolution defeated the Fire 2-1 at Gillette Stadium. In the 35th minute, Marco Pappa received the ball in the box, feinted past one defender, then laid the ball off to John Thorrington, who shot it low into the New England goal. The superb crowd of 21,528 roared in response to the aggregate equalizer. In the 82nd minute, Patrick Nyarko beat his marker near the corner flag and rushed parallel to the goal line toward the box. After drawing out the keeper, Nyarko nutmegged another defender and passed short to Cuauhtemoc Blanco. Blanco took a short step forward and lifted the ball up to the top right corner to push the Fire to the Eastern Conference Final.

 

#8 - Chicago Fire 1, MetroStars 0 - October 15, 2003  -  US Open Cup Final  -  Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ

The 2003 US Open Cup Final took place at Giants Stadium, where the field was lined with football markings. In the 68th minute, Evan Whitfield broke in from the right sideline through the end zone, centering the ball to Damani Ralph. The Jamaican forward needed only one touch to slide the ball around MetroStars goalkeeper Jonny Walker. The Fire would only need one goal to be rewarded with the US Open Cup for the third time.

#7 - Chicago Fire 2, LA Galaxy 1 (aet) - August 23, 2000  -  US Open Cup Semifinal  -  Titan Stadium, Fullerton, California

This physical match resulted in a total of 12 yellow cards between both sides. Fire defender Carlos Bocanegra earned a red card in the 51st minute, putting the Fire down a man. LA Galaxy icon Cobi Jones would score the opening goal in the 79th minute. Down to ten men and trailing by a goal, it surely seemed that the Fire’s run in this US Open Cup was extinguished. However, the Men in Red rallied through Fire legend Ante Razov, scoring in the 85th minute. With the score level, the match went into added time and in the extra frame the Fire would lose captain Peter Nowak after Luis Hernandez purposely stepped on his face but referee Sergio Vega only produced a yellow card. Still without Nowak the Fire strung together 10 passes before Josh Wolff buried a rebound to send the side to its second U.S. Open Cup final in three seasons.

 

29 May 6:55 am

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...
 
 
28 May 8:11 am
Ever since the possibility of the Fire taking on the Bucks came into play about two weeks ago, my mouth has sort of been watering for Tuesday night’s match-up.
 
For those that haven’t heard my story before, it was with the Bucks that I got my first gig in soccer as an intern in 2007. Standing as the highest level of outdoor soccer in the Detroit area, the Bucks actually made their name early on as the Mid-Michigan Bucks, playing mostly out of White Pine Stadium in Saginaw from 1996-2003. 
 
While they’re a Premier Development League side (fourth division), it would be a mistake to take them lightly. Along with qualifying for the playoffs and looking to earn a North American championship (as they did in 2006), the Bucks, much like the Fire, put a high priority on the tournament. The 2012 season marks the ninth time in their 17-year history that the team has taken part in the competition.

 
In all, the team has hosted three of its six matches against MLS teams in the state of Michigan. But perhaps the game they’re known best for, was their 1-0 defeat of the New England Revolution on June 27, 2000 at Foxboro Stadium. The first time a PDL team would defeat an MLS side in the Open Cup, the  fourth division team came just short of the quarterfinals that year after a 10-man Bucks side would draw 3-3 at the Miami Fusion before falling 6-5 in the shootout.
 
“Obviously we’re very excited about Tuesday,” said Michigan Bucks chairman Dan Duggan. “We’re disappointed that we haven’t been able to bring an MLS team here for the tournament the last six years but we’ve worked hard and this year things came together. To have the Chicago Fire come into Detroit is absolutely a great matchup that the fans will enjoy. Detroit and Chicago are two of the greatest sports towns in America and it has the makings of something special again here Tuesday night.”
 
While the Fire first team has never played the Bucks, the Pontiac-based side has long held a rivalry with the club’s PDL team since they first entered the league in 2001. Current Fire assistant coach Mike Matkovich was the head coach of the PDL side that often thwarted the Bucks in the early part of the last decade, though the series has certainly evened out more recently.
 
Along with that connection, the Fire currently have two players on its roster that can count themselves amongst the Bucks alumni playing in Major League Soccer. Fire forward Kheli Dube tallied 25 goals in 41 appearances for the team from 2005-2007, while helping the Bucks to the 2006 North American title and back to the championship match the following season. In recognition for his on-field performance and the character he showed during his three seasons in Detroit, Dube was inducted into the Bucks Hall of Fame last year.
 
“He helped us out a lot, he’s a terrific young man,” Duggan said of Dube. “If you’re taking a prototype for what an MLS player should strive to be, he would be my guy -- just a consummate professional in every way.” 
 
While a member of the Fire PDL team in 2010, converted defender Tony Walls spent the surrounding summers of 2009 and 2011 in Detroit, helping the team to the Great Lakes Division crown last season.
 
“Tony I think is one of the best athletes I’ve ever seen,” he continued. “We expected he would get drafted and play in MLS because of his athletic ability and he’s obviously a great soccer player. We’re very proud of both Kheli and Tony’s success.”
 
While the game is the Fire’s first ever in the Great Lakes state, it will also hold the distinction of being the team’s first-ever indoor game. How fitting that the venue, Ultimate Soccer Arenas stands just a mile south of the Pontiac Silverdome, the site of the first-ever indoor World Cup game. A much more intimate venue, Ultimate Soccer’s permanent seating can hold 1,600 people and with an expected sellout, temporary bleachers are being added for Tuesday’s match. 
 
27 May 12:21 pm

May 27, 2012 – Byhalia, Ohio

The fields of Ohio roll as American flags ripple from front porches.

Farm houses adorn the road where silos stand as markers in the distance and a bus filled with soccer players and coaches from 12 countries chug along the two lane highway past Range’s Belly Acre and the Mt. Victory Drive through.

You can practically taste the tangy-sweet of street-side lemonade and imagine the yard sale bargains spelled upon the underside of card board boxes.
 
It’s fitting, that as the Fire begin its foray into the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, the nation’s longest standing team tournament, that the team does so by traversing US-23 N and the nooks and crannies of America’s Midwest. Teams from Chicago have captured the U.S. Open Cup nine times collectively, with the Fire at the top of the list with four.
 
One can imagine a bus, not too dissimilar from this one, carrying a group of immigrant Czechs through the dairy farms and corn fields of the Midwest as Chicago Sparta captured the 1938 U.S. Open Cup (or as it was called then, the National Challenge Cup).
 
The A.A.C Eagles, a club of Polish immigrants, found early success making deep tournament runs while riding buses across a post-World War II America, and finally captured the crown in 1990, beating the Brooklyn Italians in Indianapolis. You’d have to suspect bus rides home for both sides were joyous ones.
 
And here we sit, Beats headphones on and decorated in adidas gear working our way to one of the bedrocks of the American Midwest - Detroit, for a Tuesday Open Cup match against the PDL's Michigan Bucks. 
 
Fire Head Coach Frank Klopas looks back at the group and remarks, “I like these small towns, they have character."

 

25 May 1:17 pm

The Chicago Fire hold an impressive 10-6-6- record at Columbus Crew stadium in 22 competitive matches since the soccer-specific venue opened in 1999. The Crew may be tagged as “America’s Hardest Working Team,” but the Fire have ruined many of their days working from home. As we once again make Crew Stadium FireHouse East (#FHEAST) this weekend, here are five memorable matches between the two sides in the Ohio capital... 

October 10, 1999 • Chicago Fire 2-1 Win

Hosting the Fire at their brand new soccer specific stadium almost a year after the Bob Bradley’s side upended the Crew 2-1 in U.S. Open Cup final, the home side was happy to run out to a 2-0 lead, using goals from Brian McBride (5’) and Jeff Cunningham (65’). The second goal was enough to get the Fire to respond as Ante Razov tallied a penalty a minute later before Chicagoan Tommy Soehn grabbed the equalizer 10 minutes later to take the match to the vaunted hockey-style shootout. The Fire were able to keep the Crew from feeling any redemption, winning the pseudo-penalty decider 2-1 thanks to three saves from goalkeeper Zach Thornton and two goals from Razov and Dema Kovalenko.

 

 

April 1, 2000 • Chicago Fire 2-0 Win

 This match is notable for featuring four future MLS head coaches in their playing days - Peter Nowak, Jesse Marsch, Tom Soehn, and Robert Warzycha. With all that future managing talent in one match, you’ve got to wonder who on the Fire’s current roster could be a manager in coming years… That’s not to mention future Ring of Fire inductees Lubos Kubik, and CJ Brown as well as Brian McBride (playing at that time for the Crew). Ultimately, the Fire would take this match with a 5th minute goal from Ante Razov and another from Nowak in the 36th.

July 20, 2004 • Chicago Fire 2-1 Win (U.S. Open Cup 4th Round)

Seeing as the team is about to once again begin play in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and the current penchant for coming from behind, this one seemed appropriate. Back in 2004, the Fire entered the tournament with a fourth round match at that year’s Supporters Shield winners. The Crew took a 1-0 lead into halftime via Frankie Hejduk’s 27th minute strike but Damani Ralph responded for the Fire in the 65th minute to eventually send it to extra time. Nearing the end of the first overtime period, Chris Armas set up Ralph for the Golden Goal winner in the 105th minute and beginning the team’s run to the 2004 final.

 September 8, 2007 • Chicago Fire 1-0 Win

Costa Rican World Cup veteran and former Manchester City striker Paulo Wanchope only played for the Fire for one year, scoring just 2 goals in 12 appearances. Fortunately, one of those came in the 65th minute of this match (anyone noticing a pattern here?) and combining with Matt Pickens’ five saves was enough to collect all three points at Columbus. The result would go a long way towards helping the Fire recover from an early-season slump to eventually make the MLS Cup playoffs and the Eastern Conference championship match.

June 12, 2011 • Chicago Fire 1-0 Win

 The 2011 season marked this first year of the club-sponsored fan bus trip to Crew Stadium, with over 500 supporters cheering on the Men in Red behind enemy lines.  Both teams fought hard, but as seen in the history between these sides, the excitement was saved until the very end. In the 90th minute, Cristian Nazarit put himself in the right place at the right time to slot home Orr Barouch’s rebound, to take a 1-0 lead. Clearly, the presence of the traveling supporters had been felt by the team and resulted in a truly massive goal.

 The victory was also the team’s first in five tries across all competitions at Crew Stadium since the last win on September 8, 2007.

WATCH: Frank Klopas talks 2011 #FHEAST Invasion of Columbus