Chicago Fire goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi directs traffic before a Michigan Bucks free kick during the Bucks' 3-2 extra time win | File Photo: Tavio Palazzolo
For over a decade, the Michigan Bucks have used the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup to earn a national reputation as giant killers. The USL Premier Development League team has more professional upsets than any amateur team in the country, including their prize upset of the New England Revolution of Major League Soccer back in 2000. On Tuesday, in front of a capacity crowd at the Ultimate Soccer Arenas in Pontiac, Mich., the Bucks, who are the first amateur team to upset an MLS side, became the first to do it twice with a 3-2 extra time victory over the Chicago Fire.
What makes the US Open Cup unique in American sports is the fact that a team from any level can face off with a team from the highest level in the country in a winner-take-all game. Only four amateur clubs (Michigan Bucks, Dallas Roma FC, Chicago Sockers and the now-defunct Seattle Sounders Select) have eliminated an MLS team from the 99-year old single-elimination tournament.
Frank Klopas, head coach of the Chicago Fire, didn’t field a relatively strong lineup for the match, and he may have been second guessing that decision in hindsight. He only put in two regular starters – Jalil Anibaba and Austin Berry. On the other hand, Michigan – who is undefeated between Open Cup and league play – came out strong, and it showed early. It took only nine minutes for the Bucks to find net, as Tommy Catalano crossed up Berry and beat Fire goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi low to put the Bucks ahead 1-0.
Even though the Bucks pressed on throughout the first half, the Fire waited for their chance to strike. They would get that in the 28th minute as Corben Bone rifled a shot from the top of the box past Bucks keeper Adam Grinwis into the net to even the score at 1-1. Just a minute later, Bucks striker Nermin Crnkic found himself in the penalty box, and although the play was debatable as to whether he was pushed down or dove, the result was judged the same – Crnkic earned a yellow card for diving in the 29th minute.
As the second half began, Chicago wasted no time in taking control of the match. Their efforts would prove fruitful in just a few short minutes, as Federico Puppo blasted an effort inside the post in the 51st minute to give the Fire a 2-1 lead.
Despite Chicago taking the lead and control of the match, the Bucks just wouldn’t give up. The work the amateur club put in would pay off in the 79th minute, when a cross from Crnkic found the head of Nate Boyden in the box to tie the match. Shortly after the tying goal was scored, Klopas saw an opportunity to try and push for the win, bringing in Dominic Oduro and Dan Gargan from the bench. It wasn’t to be, though, as the match was all square at 2-2 going into extra time.
The Bucks wasted no time putting the pressure on the Fire in the extra session. What proved to be the eventual game-winning goal came just three minutes in, Crnkic ripped a shot towards the net. Tornaghi got a hand on it, but it wasn’t enough, as Michigan took the 3-2 lead. For the next 27 minutes, the Fire pressed hard for the equalizing goal, while the Bucks looked to counter on turnovers and put the game away. Neither side would add to the scoreline, though, as the Michigan Bucks moved on to the Fourth Round, defeating the Fire 3-2. They now play the Dayton Dutch Lions of USL Pro – a familiar opponent who was in their division in the PDL in the 2010 season – next Tuesday for a spot in the Quarterfinals.
Chicago Fire 2:3 Michigan Bucks
Ultimate Soccer Arenas – Pontiac, MI
MICH – Tommy Catalano (Kenny Uzoigwe) 9
CHI – Corben Bone (Federico Puppo) 28
CHI – Federico Puppo (Corben Bone) 51
MICH – Nate Boyden (Nermin Crnkic) 79
MICH – Nermin Crnkic (Tommy Catalano) 93
CHICAGO FIRE: Paolo Tornaghi; Tony Walls (Dan Gargan 84), Jalil Anibaba, Austin Berry (Kwame Watson-Siriboe 49), Hunter Jumper; Michael Videira, Daniel Paladini, Corben Bone; Rafael Robayo; Federico Puppo, Orr Barrouch (Dominic Oduro 84). Substitutes not used: Sean Johnson (GK), Gonzalo Segares, Victor Pineda, Patrick Nyarko.
MICHIGAN BUCKS: Adam Grinwis; Kevin Cope, Sebby Harris, Chad Barson, Stew Givens; Nate Boyden, Scott Caldwell (Steve Miller 75), Tommy Catalano, Simon Omekanda (Joey Dillon 64); Nermin Crnkic, Kenny Uzoigwe (Zach Steinberger 35). Substitutes not used: Sean Teepen (GK), Kofi Opare, Bim Ogunyemi, Anthony Grant.
Discipline: CHI – Daniel Paladini (caution-foul, 25); MICH – Nermin Crnkic (caution-simulation, 29).