Michael Videira of the Chicago Fire battles for the ball against the Colorado Rapids in Wednesday's US Open Cup qualifying match. Photo: Bob Hunt
2011 US Open Cup qualifying (MLS) Colorado Rapids 1:2 Chicago Fire
SCORING SUMMARY CHI: Gaston Puerari (Diego Chaves) – 45th COL: Andre Akpan (Quincy Amarikwa) – 47th CHI: Jalil Anibaba (Unassisted) – 61st Chicago advances to play at winner of San Jose/Portland Post-game quotes | MLS qualifying schedule
Where there is smoke there is fire, or at least the Chicago Fire’s Jalil Anibaba. The rookie defender launched a 45 yard shot from the midst of a flare-induced haze just after the hour mark to give the hosts a 2-1 US Open Cup qualification victory over the reigning Major League Soccer champion Colorado Rapids Wednesday evening in Peoria, IL at Bradley University’s Shea Stadium.
The goal was a floating shot that slipped just inside the upper right corner of the goal as Colorado keeper Ian Joyce stretched back in a last-second attempt to parry it away, perhaps after being unable to initially see the incoming effort through the remaining smoke that was created by a flare set off by Fire supporters behind his endline minutes earlier.
Anibaba’s unlikely tally proved to be the difference as Chicago held on for the victory in what was largely an evenly contested match that saw each club score its previous goal within two minutes of each side of the halftime break.
Chicago took the lead in the 45th minute when Diego Chaves found Gaston Peurari, who drove into the left side of the penalty area before letting loose a shot from 16 yards that beat Joyce.
Match Highlights (Chicago-Fire.com)
Just over a minute and a half into the second stanza, the Rapids stunned Chicago with the equalizer. Andre Akpan, a former Fire Premier Development League player, connected at a narrow angle from the right, sending it into the far side netting.
Chicago, seeded fourth overall, advances to the final match of the western version of the MLS qualification bracket with the victory over the top seed and will now travel to face either last night’s opening round winner Portland Timbers or the San Jose Earthquakes, who were seeded into the second round with a bye. Details of the match are yet to be determined.
While the Fire are idle this week in MLS play, the Rapids return home to host DC United Sunday, April 3. With the league match ahead, Colorado utilized nearly an entire reserve squad lineup that could arguably indicate the club indirectly wanted to avoid fixture congestion later in the season. The Rapids only started one player, Quincy Amarikwa, from the starting lineup of this past Saturday’s 1-0 victory in California against Chivas USA. Ross LaBauex and Wells Thompson (for Amarikwa) came off the bench in the league match for a combined 91 minutes played between the trio. Amarikwa scored the winner in the 31st minute of the game.
The Rapids have taken part in every MLS qualifying tournament since it began in 2007, and after emerging from the competition that first year, they have fallen short in each of the last four years. They have played more qualifying games since 2007 than any MLS club, and wrap up this year’s tournament with a 3-3-2 (1-1 in PKs) overall record.
Although the Rapids will not be participating in the 2011 edition of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, the club will still have non-league fixtures this summer when it competes in the fourth edition of the CONCACAF Champions League as the current MLS champions.
The last time the Chicago Fire played at Shea Stadium was in 2008 US Open Cup qualifying when they defeated the Columbus Crew 3-2 in front of a sold-out crowd. Photo: Bradley University
The first half saw few opportunities that challenged the keepers as the clubs tested one another. In the third minute Colorado’s Sanna Nyassi struck a shot from 30 yards that Sean Johnson caught, and seven minutes later at the other end Rapids defender Tyrone Marshall did well to clear away consecutive chances in the box. Chicago’s Puerari began to make noise in the 32nd minute when he made a run into the box only to see the ball get away from him.
Shortly after a 39th minute yellow card to recent Fire acquisition Yamith Cuesta, the signs of a breakdown by the Rapids began to show in the 40th minute with the first of two yellow cards in a short span as the match started to heat up physically. Nyassi was given a caution for tripping Patrick Nyarko, who was taken down again three minutes later by Scott Palguta, who was also disciplined.
Nyarko answered, with what proved to be a warning shot, as his header a minute later off a cross from Cory Gibbs sailed just over the crossbar.
In the 69th minute Wells Thompson nearly provided a second Colorado equalizer when he got inside the area and fired from the left only to see Johnson make a great save to preserve the advantage. Five minutes later Amarikwa worked his way into the box from the right side, but a series of dangerous opportunities in the box never resulted in a direct shot.
Chicago nearly locked up the victory with a third tally in the 77th minute when Chaves showed some fine skill with his chest and feet around the penalty spot before slipping the ball off to an open Davis Paul, whose shot went wide right.
Colorado’s final chance was a Nyassi shot in the 86th minute that missed narrowly, and the Fire nearly closed with a bang three minutes into stoppage time when Puerari drove into the area and sent a shot from 14 yards that Joyce tipped wide of the far left post.
MLS qualifying for the US Open Cup continues next Wednesday evening, April 6 with two matches in the eastern version MLS qualifying brackets. The Philadelphia Union visit DC United at 7:30 pm ET and the Houston Dynamo play host to Sporting Kansas City at 8:00 pm ET.