A fourth MLS team has fallen in the Third Round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
The Carolina RailHawks eliminated the Chicago Fire, the defending Open Cup champions, 1-0 in front of a packed crowd at SAS Stadium in Cary, NC. In the 56th minute, McColm Cephas received a fortunate bounce just outside the penalty area, dribbled in and fired a low shot to the near post, past Fire backup goalkeeper Jon Busch. The RailHawks saw a brave performance from their own backup goalkeeper, John O’Hara, who held Chicago scoreless, despite not playing a single minute during the regular season.
The expansion RailHawks are led by head coach Scott Schweitzer, who helped lead the Rochester Rhinos of the A-League (now the USL First Division) to the 1999 US Open Cup championship. That Rhinos team defeated four MLS clubs on their way to the title.
The Chicago Fire have competed in the Open Cup every year since their inaugural season in 1998. This is only the third time that they have been eliminated by a team from the USL First Division, with all three of those losses coming in their first game of the competition, and all by a scoreline of 1-0. Schweitzer’s Rhinos beat them in 1999 and the second came in 2002 against the now-defunct Milwaukee Rampage.
Prior to the beginning of the Third Round, Carolina fans figured an upset over Chicago would earn them a date with David Beckham and the Los Angeles Galaxy. However, the Richmond Kickers pulled off the upset and now the USL is guaranteed to have a representative in the Open Cup Semifinals. Carolina will host the Kickers at SAS Stadium on August 7 in the Quarterfinals.