Last night in Atlanta
First things first. With a win Wednesday night vs. Columbus, the Fire would head to the southeast for a quarterfinal date with the NASL’s Atlanta Silverbacks, who dispatched their second straight MLS team in a wild 2-1 victory at Colorado Tuesday night.
Atlanta drew first blood in the match when former Fire PDL winger Junior Burgos crossed for Jaime Chavez, with his half-bicycle attempt beating Rapids ‘keeper Clint Irwin in the 21st.
In a somewhat familiar scene to last week’s Fire match vs. Pittsburgh, the game was halted seven minutes later due to lightning and took approximate 40 minutes to get back underway. Once they did, they got to the halftime break with Atlanta holding a 1-0 advantage.
Just before the hour mark, Chavez made it 2-0 when Irwin misjudged a free kick from Jesus Gonzalez, leaving the Chivas USA product with an easy tap-in on 58 minutes.
- TICKETS: Fire vs. Crew 7:30pm at Toyota Park
Things turned ugly just after as Chavez took down defender, Drew Moor at midfield before his cleating the former Fire PDL player. The incident resulted in a bench-clearing melee in which three Atlanta players – Chavez, midfielder Kwadwo Poku and former Fire trialist Borfor Carr were all sent off. Additionally, Rapids defender Mark Burch was also shown the door.
Silverbacks Technical Director Eric Wynalda, assistant coach Ricardo Montoya and Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni were also sent off in the episode, with the teams playing 10 on 8 the rest of the match.
With a two man advantage, Colorado bossed the game for the remaining half hour and despite a number of chances, could only pull one back in the 75th minute as Atlanta outlasted the home side in a 2-1 victory.
The other big upset on the night was the Carolina RailHawks taking down a near-full strength LA Galaxy side, 1-0 in extra time. The win marks the third straight year the NASL club has beaten the Galaxy in the tournament and sets up another home quarterfinal date with FC Dallas.
Tuesday night’s scores:
Colorado Rapids 1, Atlanta Silverbacks 2
Carolina Railhawks 1, LA Galaxy 0 (aet)
FC Dallas 3, Houston Dynamo 2
Philadelphia Union 2, New York Cosmos 1 (aet)
Sporting KC 1, Portland Timbers 3
Seattle Sounders 1, San Jose Earthquakes 1 (4-1 PKs)
The Atlanta result should give Fire fans some positive feelings if they can get by Columbus on Wednesday night.
Heading into the match, there’s little doubt that the home-standing Fire are favorites with the Crew decimated by national duty, injuries, suspensions and five players being cup-tied already. If that weren’t enough, Columbus returns to league action this Saturday with a home date against FC Dallas, while the Fire don’t play again until next Wednesday’s match vs. Toronto FC.
A thorough breakdown of who both the Crew and Fire are missing can be found here.
Crew Still Up for the Match
Any presumptions about a Fire win should be tempered however. One needs only to look back to last year’s postponed Fire/Crew Open Cup match where the Crew put out a stronger lineup on Wednesday night before changing it for the rescheduled Thursday game, knowing they had a league match just two days away.
In that game, Columbus ran out to a 1-0 and the Fire left it late, needing a 78th minute goal from Patrick Nyarko to earn a 2-1 win. Watch the highlights here.
- GET ON THE BUS: $10 Pub to Pitch tickets available until 4:00pm
Even if they’re weakened, Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter says his team is still up for the challenge.
"Anytime we're on the field, regardless of who's on the field, you want to win," added Berhalter. "You want to have the mentality that you want to win. You build a squad, you have 30 guys on the roster, and you want to give guys chances to play. Guys who have played regularly, you want to get them sharp for Saturday. We're going out there to win a game. It's as simple as that."
TheCrew.com’s Ryan Schepfinger has the Crew view on Wednesday night’s encounter.
Yallop praises veteran Logan Pause
In last week’s weather-shortened 2-1 win over Pittsburgh, Fire midfielder Logan Pause set a new club record for appearances in the Open Cup, passing current assistant coach C.J. Brown by playing in his 26th match in the competition.
Fire head coach Frank Yallop said this week he’s fortunate to have a player of such experience at his disposal, especially in the midst of a cup run.
“He’s been there done that,” said the Fire manager. “He’s been in a lot of Open Cup runs, played lots of minutes, been part of four teams that went to the finals and to still have him at the club is great. I always wanted to have him here, he’s great when he plays, he’s a knowledgeable player and a good guy the others enjoy having around.”
- READ: TrueCar Player Registry
Though Pause has seen more limited playing time the for the Fire the past two seasons, Yallop praised the 12-year club veteran for taking on a different role.
“Coming in this year, I told him what was going to go on,” said the Fire manager. “We have to move forward as a club and that’s not to say he’s not going to be playing much but as it’s worked out he hasn’t. He’s had a few injuries when he was close to getting in the mix with me.
“Now he’s fit and healthy and what’s gone on before, it doesn’t matter. If you play well, I’ll play you. You have to keep your standards high which he does and he’s the best trainer we’ve got -- his attitude is fantastic.
Open Cups on Display
Lastly, if you’re coming out to tonight’s match the club’s MLS-record four U.S. Open Cup trophies will be on display behind Section 8 Chicago in The Harlem End from 6:30pm through the end of halftime. They’ll then move to the stadium club through the end of the match.
Get a photo! Go Fire!