BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Some MLS coaches have complained about having to play U.S. Open Cup matches during the league’s World Cup break.
Fire head coach Frank Yallop isn’t one of them, however.
Leading a club that has publicly made the Open Cup a priority over the past few season and without MLS fixture congestion, Yallop sees Wednesday’s fourth round match vs. USL PRO side Pittsburgh Riverhounds (7:30pm CT on Chicago-Fire.com) as an opportunity to field a strong lineup.
“We’ve got a bit of a break so we don’t need to rest anybody,” he told reporters earlier this week. “I want to make sure we have a good lineup and have a strong performance. We’ll look at combinations of how we want to play and go from there. I’m pretty confident we’ll be fine.”
Having returned to full training this past week, both forward Mike Magee and midfielder Alex will be available for selection by Yallop on Wednesday night. In fact, the only two players unavailable at the moment are Patrick Nyarko (left ankle surgery) and Gonzalo Segares (right ankle surgery).
Yallop said there may be some minor tweaks to his regular starting lineup, but not many.
“There could be a couple mixed in but it won’t be a weakened side for sure. It’ll be strong enough that I feel will go on and win the game. There’s a lot of guys that have played a lot of minutes over the start of the season and maybe they might get a break but we’ll see.”
With three MLS teams upset by NASL clubs in the competition at the weekend, Yallop was asked if there is any trouble motivating top flight players for early round Open Cup matches.
“I don’t think so. I haven’t seen the games that MLS teams lost but every game is difficult. You look at cup upsets around the world – a team really lifts themselves and usually if you make a few changes to a lineup it’s not familiar, it becomes disjointed and then doesn’t play particularly well.
“That’s the reason for me to make sure our team has the continuity for the game on Wednesday. You can’t make 11 changes and expect us to play well. [Pittsburgh] is a team that’s played together for a while and we need to be a team that’s used to each other but the upsets are always there.”
With Pittsburgh sitting bottom of the third division USL PRO table, having won just two matches across all competitions so far this season, it would be a pretty big upset.
Yallop said he didn’t know a lot about Pittsburgh but that Fire goalkeeping coach Aron Hyde went to scout the Riverhounds in their 3-2 extra time win over RWB Adria last month. While he may be unfamiliar with the side, he will know former Fire forward Collins John as well as former MLS players Joseph Ngwenya and Danny Earls.
As he gets ready to coach his first Open Cup match for the Fire, Yallop said he fully understands the club’s priority on the competition.
“Any chance you get at winning a trophy, it’s very important. The competition means a lot here with the club’s history and I know I was absolutely devastated when I lost here in the Open Cup final with the Galaxy [in 2006].
“I know how it feels to get to a final and not win it. I want to make sure we take everything seriously, come up with a strong showing and go as far as we can.”
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