The Chicago Fire PDL team advanced past the first round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup for the second straight year Tuesday night, surviving a late onslaught to squeak out a 1-0 victory over Milwaukee-based Croatian Eagles (USASA) on the Toyota Park Practice Field. With the win, the team moves on to host USL-Pro’s Dayton Dutch Lions next Tuesday, May 22 at Toyota Park.
“It was a tough win,” said Fire PDL head coach Mark Spooner post-game. “I don’t think we played particularly well but pros find ways to win games and that’s what we did.”
Things looked like they could get out of hand early in the fifth minute when left wing Mark Blades sauntered up the flank and beat his mark to cut inside before laying off a pass for Isaac Kannah (Northern Illinois; pictured above) who tapped his effort past onrushing Eagles ‘keeper Bryce Boyd to give the go-ahead goal.
From there, the team would see a number of chances thwarted by Boyd, who would make eight saves on the night.
In the 18th minute Fire midfielder Harrison Shipp (Notre Dame) placed a header towards the right post that the outstretched Boyd sprawled out to save. The ball pinged around the box before falling to Shipp again who saw his shot put out for a corner by an onrushing Boyd.
Sixteen minutes later Shipp traversed up the left before laying off to Brady Wahl at the top of the box. The Ohio State midfielder hit a well-placed shot to the bottom left corner but saw Boyd take away his chance to keep things level going into the half.
In the 52nd minute Patrick Doody (Indiana) pushed up the left and swung in a cross that saw Wahl dive full extension before heading his effort past Boyd but off the cross bar. Kannah followed up with an effort he pulled just left of goal.
Three minutes later Blades played Chris Prince (Wisconsin) over the top and in alone on goal but Boyd came well of his line to make a diving, point blank stop to keep his side in the match.
As the visitors made a few tactical subs to push the game, the Fire PDL would begin to rue their missed opportunities in the final 10 minutes.
In the 81st minute, Eagles Michael Narciso saw the ball bounce to him at the top of the box before firing a low effort that forced Fire PDL ‘keeper Jordan Godsey (Northern Illinois) into a full-extension save, one of seven on the night.
Eight minutes later it was Narciso again from distance, forcing Godsey to push the ball out for a corner kick. On the follow-up attempt, the ball pinged around the box before second half substitute Edison Crespo hit an effort right to Godsey who held on well to earn the victory.
“This game was always going to be difficult for us with only four practices,” said Spooner. “We didn’t play our best but we’re in the hat for the second round and it gives us another week to prepare for another game. Our guys worked hard and ground out a result tonight.”
Spooner’s side will set its sights on next Tuesday’s second round opponent, Dayton Dutch Lions, who currently sit bottom of USL-Pro (third division), with two points from five matches. Despite their record, the manager still recognizes the challenges of playing a professional team.
“Playing pro teams is part of what the Open Cup is about right? That’s why we want to do well in it – to test ourselves against better teams and at a higher level, see where our homegrown guys may fit in at the next level. This is the level they want to be playing at so this is exactly where we want to be in the Open Cup.”
Jeff Crandall is the Team Writer for the Chicago Fire. Follow him on Twitter @JefeCrandall.