The old adage third time’s a charm proved to come true as the Chicago Fire of Major League Soccer earned their first regulation victory in three US Open Cup trips to Rochester, downing the Rhinos 1-0 in the Third Round Tuesday night on a goal from Diego Chaves in the 37th minute.
The Fire had lost at Rochester 1-0 in 1999 during the Rhinos championship campaign and advanced via penalties 5-4 after a 1-1 draw in the 2005 Quarterfinals. More importantly, the victory ended a two-year run of being eliminated in the Third Round by lower division clubs, falling 1-0 to Wilmington Hammerheads in 2009 and being bounced in penalties 3-0 by the Charleston Battery after a scoreless draw a year ago.
It was the first loss at home in the 2011 campaign for the Rhinos, who entered the match 4-0-1 at Sahlen’s Stadium and in a three-way tie for second overall in the league table. And the game could have gone to overtime or penalties if it weren’t for the unfortunate goal.
Going back and forth in a scrappy contest with a reserve-filled Fire squad, the Rhinos saw Chaves send the ball out to the left flank to Corben Bone in the 37th minute. Bone would drive past a defender toward the box and let loose a ball that forced goalkeeper Neal Kitson to knock it away. The rebound popped up into the center of the box where Alfonso Motagalvan tried to clear on the volley only to see it skim off the side of his shin and fall to Chaves, who fired a low ball into inside the right post from 18 yards.
It was the fifth goal of the year for Chaves, who is second on the MLS season for the Fire in scoring and games started. He also set up the opening goal of the club’s 2-1 qualification victory against Colorado in the opening game of this year’s Open Cup campaign.
It was a crushing blow for the 5,558 on hand who had seen the Rhinos come up short on several chances in the first half hour. The first great opportunity came in the 16th minute when a turnover led to a Kendall Jagdeosingh chance that narrowly soared over the cross bar from 10 yards. Three minutes later goalkeeper Sean Johnson, one of the two regular starters in the lineup, stopped a dangerous Tony Donatelli cross from being finished. And striker Andrew Hoxie couldn’t get his foot on the ball in a heart-stopping moment around the six in the 29th minute.
Johnson, who started both of the team’s qualification matches and is 2-2-7 in the regular season, proved key in the performance, also coming out to stop a potential breakaway by Jagdeosingh in the 64th minute on a ball from Donatelli that got behind his defense. The scrappy Rhinos also nearly got the equalizer in stoppage time with a frenzy around the ball in the area, but the goal evaded them and the final whistle sounded moments later.
Even though the Rhinos have not exactly been dominant in league and Open Cup play going into the contest, the team had not been shutout in nine matches with the last coming in a scoreless draw May 20 against current league leader Orlando City.
The loss also snaps the Rhinos’ 9-game home unbeaten streak in the tournament, dating back to 2007. During that span, they were 7-0-2 (2-0 in PKs) in their home stadium.
TheCup.us Match MVP: Diego Chaves
CHI: Diego Chaves (Unassisted) – 37th min.
Chicago: Sean Johnson, Bratislav Ristic, Josip Mikulic, Dasan Robinson (Jalil Anibaba 49), Pari Pantazoplouis; Corben Bone (Dominic Oduro 75), Mike Videira, Daniel Paladini, Gabriel Ferrari (Patrick Nyarko 46); Cristian Nazarit, Diego Chaves
Rochester: Neal Kitson; TJ Gore (Rich Costanzo 44, Troy Roberts, Tyler Bellamy, Quavas Kirk; Alfonso Motagalvan, Tony Donatelli, Michael Tanke (Isaac Kissi 79), Tyler Rosenlund; Andrew Hoxie (JC Banks 67), Kendall Jagdeosingh
ROC: Troy Roberts 26 – caution
CHI: Mike Videira 72 – caution
ROC: Rich Costanzo 87 – caution
CHI: Cristian Nazarit 90 – caution
ROC: Alfonso Motagalvan 90 – caution