Tuesday night’s U.S. Open Cup semifinal game vs. Richmond (Webcast LIVE on Chicago-Fire.com at 7:30pm CT) will be a reunion of sorts for two Fire players that have ties to the Virginia capital. Veteran defender Gonzalo Segares and striker Dominic Oduro both spent their collegiate careers at Virginia Commonwealth University and have some familiarity with the club heading into Tuesday night’s clash at Toyota Park.
Segares attended a number of matches at City Stadium in Richmond during his collegiate summers and knows the quality of the organization first hand.
“I went to a bunch of Kickers matches while I was at VCU,” he said Monday. “I actually remember going to their Open Cup game against the Fire in 2004. It’s always good crowds at their stadium, they have a lot of followers and a good organization. They’re taking this seriously as well and I’m sure they’re going to make it hard for us.”
Segares is likely most familiar with the two Richmond players that participated in that 2004 Open Cup quarterfinal, a 1-0 Fire win and the only previous meeting between the two sides.
“Their big target forward Matthew Delicate played with me at VCU and Ronnie Pascale was our goalkeeping coach at the time. He’s not the biggest guy but he’s a pretty quick guy with very good reflexes and is a leader in that team.”
Richmond, who advanced to just the club’s second Open Cup semifinal didn’t have an easy path to Tuesday night’s match. The USL-Pro side had to beat both the Columbus Crew (2-1; Round of 16) and Sporting Kansas City (2-0; Quarterfinals) on the road, becoming the first lower league team to defeat MLS teams in back-to-back away matches in the competition.
“We can’t take them lightly. They did a good job in Kansas City and Columbus, that’s why there in this position. We look at ourselves and see a team that’s been working really hard all season but it has been frustrating at times because a lot of results haven’t gone our way. The motivation for us Tuesday is very high, we need to keep working as hard as we have and the Open Cup game is no different. We want to come out like we did against DC, Toronto and Colorado, pressing them and I’m sure we’re going to have chances.
[inline_node:15813]Dominic Oduro continued his career season with what would stand as the winning goal in the Fire’s 2-0 victory over Colorado last Saturday. With four goals in August, the former Richmond Kickers PDL man should be in contention for MLS Player of the Month.
Despite sitting just one goal away from breaking the club’s seven-year drought without a double digit goal scorer in MLS play, Oduro’s focus along with the team’s is all on defeating Richmond and punching a ticket to the October 4th Open Cup final.
“They’re obviously playing well,” he said. “Our focus and mentality has been on winning this game. It’s been on the schedule for six weeks and we know the importance at this point. It’s what we want, what the fans want and we have to get it done tomorrow.”
Having lost in 3-0 at Orlando City in Saturday’s USL-PRO
playoff semifinal, Oduro is expecting Richmond to have all to play for as a
loss Tuesday would spell the end of their season.
“It’s going to be a very tough game. They’re hurt after Saturday’s match and they probably want to prove a point against us. We want to prove a point as well. We’re the better team but we expect a very feisty game.”
Richmond Players to Watch: Veteran USL striker Matthew Delicate leads the team in goals with 13 across all competitions while supporting striker David Bulow has made the Open Cup his own, scoring six goals across four matches so far in the tournament.
Defensively Richmond’s center back combination of Yomby William and Henry Kalungi will prove a physical presence in front of veteran goalkeeper Ronnie Pascale. The longtime Kickers backstop has provided some amazing moments for the club over the years and can be counted on for a big save.
Prediction: Fire 3, Kickers 1
Tickets for Tuesday night’s U.S. Open Cup Semifinal are still available by clicking here or by visiting the Toyota Park Box Office. Can’t make it to the match? Catch myself and Brendan Hannan on the call beginning at 7:30pm LIVE at Chicago-Fire.com
Jeff Crandall is the Team Writer for the Chicago Fire. Follow him on Twitter @JefeCrandall.