Here are five things you should know ahead of Wednesday’s all-important U.S. Open Cup semifinal clash at Seattle (LIVE 9:30pm CT on Chicago-Fire.com).
First things first, whoever wins Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup semifinal between the Fire and Sounders now know they’ll head to face the Philadelphia Union in the final on September 16 at PPL Park.
The Union played to a 1-1 draw at FC Dallas on Wednesday night before unsung hero Zac MacMath made two penalty saves to send the DOOP to their first-ever final.
U.S. Open Cup Records – All of them
With seven titles and 10 finals appearances between them, the Chicago Fire and Seattle Sounders have been the two most dominant MLS sides all-time in U.S. Open Cup competition.
A side-by-side breakdown of the two clubs history in the competition:
|U.S. Open Cup||Chicago Fire||Seattle Sounders|
(1998, 2000, 2003, 2006)
(1998, 2000, 2003-2004, 2006, 2011)
(1998, 2000-2001, 2003-2006, 2011, 2013-2014)
|All-Time U.S. Open Cup Records:||34-11-3||17-1-3|
* - Notes MLS records in the U.S. Open Cup
Why the Fire are underdogs
While the Chicago Fire are “Kings of the Cup”, their bid for a competition tying five Open Cup trophies is under threat by Seattle’s similar dedication to the completion.
The MLS Sounders are 17-1-3 all-time in the tournament, with their only loss coming last year in shocking fashion to the NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies. Of their three draws, the team has won two of the penalty kick shootouts with their only other negative result coming in the 2012 final, a shootout defeat at Sporting KC.
Beyond that, the Sounders have never lost a home Open Cup match, going 16-0-1, the Fire have failed to defeat Seattle in 11 tries across all competitions (0-8-3) and have never won in Cascadia, going 0-8-2 all-time away to Seattle, Portland and Vancouver.
Unfortunately, the Fire will also be without reigning 2013 MLS MVP Mike Magee who is serving a one-game suspension after being shown a red card for an altercation in the team’s 3-1 quarterfinal win over Atlanta.
Why am I saying all of this? Because the Open Cup is a tournament of upsets, something Fire fans learned all too well when the deck was stacked against eventual champions D.C. United in last year’s semifinal.
2011 Open Cup Final – Players switching sides
The other storyline is of course the 2011 U.S. Open Cup final played between the two sides at CenturyLink Field.
The Fire came into that game as underdogs as well, only getting about five minutes from Sebastian Grazzini who had a hamstring injury going into the match. Despite not having a ton going forward, the Fire put in a strong defensive effort, holding off Seattle for 78 minutes before Fredy Montero knocked in a rebound from close range.
Sounders captain Ossie Alonso iced the game deep into stoppage time giving the Sounders their third straight Open Cup title.
Current Fire players Logan Pause, Sean Johnson, Gonzalo Segares and Patrick Nyarko all appeared in that game for the Men in Red as did current Sounders Jalil Anibaba and Marco Pappa.
Fire defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado also went 90 minutes for the Sounders in that match.
You can painfully re-watch the highlights of that game here.
Bakary Soumare Bounces Back
Finally, after sitting the previous two matches following a 5-1 defeat to San Jose that head coach Frank Yallop labeled “a debacle” Fire defender Bakary Soumare had a statement game in the team’s 1-0 win over New York Sunday.
The veteran Fire center back thwarted a number of threats from the likes of Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill and specifically Bradley Wright-Phillips in his return to the backline, partnering with Jeff Larentowicz.
Yallop couldn’t be more pleased with Soumare’s performance heading into such a crucial match Wednesday vs. Seattle:
“To say that I was proud of Baky, I don’t need to use those words but I was,” he told reporters Tuesday. “It’s been tough, it’s been up and down we’ve conceded goals, they’re not always his fault but I was just looking for the right combination and trying to get the best out of our guys to really focus and be that 90-minute guy.
“Baky, if you look at the game, he was great. That’s what we’re looking for, it also sends the message that I’m not afraid of changing things. I think the guys are starting to realize that. They’ve got to perform and play at a high standard. We saw a very high standard not just from Baky but from Jeff [Larentowicz] on Sunday night.”