SEATTLE, Wash. – Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup matches rarely come at convenient times and that remains true for Wednesday’s semifinal clash between the Chicago Fire and Seattle Sounders in Tukwila, Wash (9:30pm CT on Chicago-Fire.com).
Both sides won Sunday night home matches in MLS league play – the Fire downed New York 1-0 while Seattle dispatched Houston 2-0. Both sides also have away games on short rest Saturday, as the Sounders visit Real Salt Lake and Fire head to play the Montreal Impact.
Despite another daunting three-game in seven day stretch, Fire head coach Frank Yallop has continued to recognize the Open Cup as a competition important to the club and its fans and will look to put out a strong side Wednesday vs. Seattle.
It’s a tough one because it’s the semifinal of a cup and we have a massive game on the weekend,” he told reporters Tuesday. “Not to use the old cliché but we have to take each game as it comes along. I’m putting out a team to win a game tomorrow night -- it won’t be weakened for sure.
While the schedules and recent result are similar, league position isn’t as Sunday’s win over Houston moved the Dynamo to the top of the MLS Supporter’s Shield table (13-6-2; 41pts.). On the other hand, the Fire actually have less losses this season than the Sounders and have made many a difficult day for teams, the wins haven’t come as quickly with the team sitting 4-5-13 (25 pts.), just two points out of the last playoff spot in the East.
Going 0-7-3 across all competitions, the Fire have also never beaten Seattle, making the David vs. Goliath comparisons easy for this match but Yallop exuded confidence about his team being able to get a result on Wednesday.
“It’s about taking our chances,” Yallop said about the match. “They’re obviously going to be favorites because they’re at home and they’re a good side but we’re coming in here feeling very confident that we can come out with a victory. There’s no other way of doing it. I see the difference in our mentality since the San Jose debacle [a 5-1 loss on July 23] – I think it woke us up. It woke me up and woke up the team. Since then the results have been a lot better.
“Sometimes the Open Cup can get in the way [of the regular season], I’ve never said that – it’s in the way of getting a trophy for this club. Hopefully we can.”
The Fire and Sounders are the cream of the MLS crop when it comes to the Open Cup, with seven titles and 10 finals appearances between them. Their only meeting in the competition came in the 2011 Championship match, where a Fire side missing attacking midfielder Sebastian Grazzini held off the home side for 78 minutes before eventually falling 2-0 at CenturyLink Field.
Current Fire players Gonzalo Segares, Logan Pause, Sean Johnson and Patrick Nyarko all played in that match. Current Sounders Marco Pappa and Jalil Anibaba also appeared for the Men in Red while current Fire defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado started and went 90 minutes on the back line for Seattle.
This isn’t a final and the game is being played at the much smaller Starfire Sports Complex, however the Fire will be missing a key element again as 2013 MLS MVP Mike Magee serves a one-match suspension after receiving a red card for an altercation during last month’s quarterfinal win in Atlanta.
Yallop downplayed the fact the team would be without Magee, however.
“We played sort of 80 odd minutes without Mike in the game at Atlanta we’re fairly used to it in this competition. Mike had the injury issues a little bit this year, didn’t get off to the greatest of starts because of his injuries but I think the last two, three games that Mike is starting to roll a little bit and it’s good timing.
Tomorrow night, expect someone else to go into his spot. I don’t think there’ll be much change but Mike’s obviously a big part of this team going forward.”