Happy Gameday! Tonight, the Chicago Fire plays to tie Maccabee Los Angeles for a tournament-record seventh appearance in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup finals (hat tip to Josh Hakla at TheCup.us) as the team welcomes D.C. United to Toyota Park at 7:30pm CT (LIVE on Chicago-Fire.com).
Five Six Things you should know about tonight’s all-important match…
First! It’s an Open Cup semifinal…
…and no matter what, this will be the last Open Cup game played at Toyota Park this season after the Fire lost the coin flip to potentially host the final last week. Still, a semifinal is a big deal and so I found myself waking up and doing something similar to this kid this morning…
The Vitals: Chicago Fire and D.C. United in Open Cup play
With four championships and six finals appearances, the Fire are no doubt #KingsoftheCup but D.C. United also carries a pretty strong tradition in the tournament, winning it twice (1996, 2008) along with finishing as runners up twice (1997, 2009).
The two sides jointly hold the MLS record for most appearances in a semifinal with nine but despite both team’s successes in the tournament, they’ve only met twice in the competition.
The first meeting came in the 2006 semifinals, memorable for captain Chris Armas’ late, 85th minute sending off, the Fire still won the match 3-0 at Toyota Park. Two years later, the teams met in a quarterfinal match, in a game that still has Fire attacker Cuauhtemoc Blanco suspended from the tournament… The Fire lost that one 2-1 in extra time.
While they haven’t played all that often in the Open Cup, note that both years the teams met, the victor went on to lift that year’s trophy.
|Chicago Fire||D.C. United|
D.C. United Health/Joe Willis
There is no reason to think this is the same D.C. United team the Fire throttled 4-1 just two and a half weeks ago at Toyota Park.
First, the team was without Dwayne DeRosario and was also dealt a blow by the pre-game injury of Chris Pontius. DeRosario went 64 minutes in United’s 3-1 win over Montreal at the weekend and Pontius has traveled to Chicago for the game.
D.C. has also added three new players this summer: Luis Silva (who scored the lone goal against the Fire last month), Jared Jeffrey and Conor Doyle. Silva has three goals for United already and the trio was all responsible for strikes in the weekend win over the Impact.
One more piece of news that is interesting is that United backup goalkeeper Joe Willis will remain between the sticks despite the return of Bill Hamid from national team duty last week.
United head coach Ben Olsen is giving Willis the node as he’s the keeper that has played in the team’s previous three Open Cup games.
One statistic for confidence…
If you follow me on Twitter or like watching The Centerback, you might have heard me mention this already but the Chicago Fire are an astounding 21-0-1 all-time in U.S. Open Cup matches played in the state of Illinois.
INFOGRAPHIC: Why the Fire are #KingsoftheCup
The one blemish came in the 2010 third round shootout loss to the Charleston Battery. Though the team went down in defeat on penalties, the game is officially scored as a draw after the teams played to a scoreless 120 minutes that night.
Sean Johnson 100 Games
Sean Johnson’s first competitive appearance for the Fire actually came in that match and while the then 21-year-old keeper did earn a shutout, he was unable to stop any penalties in the game.
Three years later though, Johnson is considered one of the top goalkeepers in MLS, is knocking on the door to go with the U.S. Men’s National Team to Brazil next year and will play in his 100th competitive match for the Chicago Fire tonight.
Logan Pause Appearance Record?
Though he hasn’t started the last few matches after returning from a lower back injury, Fire captain Logan Pause told me Tuesday he understands being passed over as the midfield has been “in good form” of late.
Having said that, should he make an appearance in tonight’s match, the 11-year Fire veteran will become the club’s record holder in all-time Open Cup appearances.
He currently sits tied with former teammate C.J. Brown at 25 games played and would become the first player to pass the 13-year Fire veteran for an appearance record in a single competition.
Get in and help us continue to make history tonight at Toyota Park! $12 Tickets are still available by clicking here and using offer code “FIRE".