Dominic Oduro’s goal in the 61st minute proved to be the game-winner to send the Chicago Fire to their sixth US Open Cup championship game. Photo: Chicago Fire
The Chicago Fire return to the US Open Cup Final for the sixth time with a 2-1 win over the USL’s Richmond Kickers at Toyota Park. A skillful goal from Dominic Oduro in the 61st minute proved to be the difference as the Kickers mounted a comeback with a William Yomby goal seven minutes later, but the Cinderella story came to an end for Richmond. The Kickers, without Open Cup-leading scorer David Bulow due to too many yellow cards, were attempting to become the first-ever third division team to reach the championship game, but instead the Fire will attempt to win a record-tying fifth Open Cup title on October 4.
In order to accomplish that, they will have to deny the Seattle Sounders a rare Open Cup three-peat on their home field. The Final will be played at CenturyLink Field in Seattle for the second year in a row in front of what will likely be a raucous crowd. In the tournament’s 97-year history, only three teams, Bethlehem Steel from Bethlehem, Pa., Maccabee AC from Los Angeles, and the Fall River Marksmen/New Bedford Whalers from Massachusetts have won five Open Cup titles. Meanwhile, only three clubs have ever won three in a row (Fall River Marksmen from Massachusetts, Stix Baer & Fuller from St. Louis, and Greek American SC from New York)
Both teams played an even game for the first half an hour, with neither team creating a dangerous chance. The only opportunities were shots from distance that were handled easily by Richmond’s Ronnie Pascale and Chicago’s Sean Johnson. The first breakthrough came from the penalty spot in the 32nd minute when Richmond’s Dave Hertel took down Patrick Nyarko in the box in the 32nd minute. The Kickers disputed the call, saying that Hertel got the ball, but the appeals fell on deaf ears and Sebastien Grazzini took the spot kick. Grazzini took a short approach and shot low and to the right as Pascale down the opposite way to make the game 1-0.
The goal did little to rattle the underdog Kickers as they continued to play the Fire tough. Despite their solid play, they nearly gave up a second goal to Grazzini in first half stoppage time when the Argentinian found space on the right side of the box and fired his shot over the bar and onto the stage behind the goal.
After the break, Richmond nearly created a scoring opportunity when Matthew Delicate’s flick header found it’s way in behind the defense to Stanley Nyazamba but the referee’s assistant raised his flag for offside.
Dominic Oduro’s game-winner was his 7th career US Open Cup goal. Photo: Brian Kersey | Chicago Fire
A few minutes later, Logan Pause received a ball at the top of the box and fired a shot on goal, but it fell harmlessly into the chest of Pascale for one of his three saves on the night.
In the 61st minute, the Fire broke the game open with an impressive goal from former Richmond Kickers Future (PDL) player Dominic Oduro. Nyarko passed to Oduro on the left wing, and the speedy forward dribbled forward, cut back to his right foot and bent the ball out of the reach of a diving Pascale into the side netting at the far post. The goal was sweeter for Oduro, as Pascale was on the coaching staff at Virginia Commonwealth University when Dominic went to school there.
Just seven minutes later, the Kickers, who created few chances offensively on the night, pulled to within one thanks to a header by William Yomby. Michael Callahan played in a free kick from the left wing, and Yomby skied up and nodded it toward goal. The ball deflected off the under side of the cross bar, landed over the line, and came back out. The officials saw it cross the line and awarded the goal to Richmond as they cut the lead in half.
The Kickers would throw everything forward in the final 20 minutes, but the Chicago defense held up to keep the scoreline intact and to punch their ticket to the US Open Cup Final.
“We looked a bit mentally tired after the last few calls, but I knew that we came out with the right attitude. We came out and all the guys worked hard. They created opportunities. We scored those two goals. I have to give a lot of credit to Richmond. They pushed the game. They’re a good team and they made it a tough game for us tonight,” said interim Fire coach Frank Klopas. “Now we’re in a position to win a Championship…. The great thing about this team is that they want to write their own history.”
The Kickers, though their season was over, had nothing to be disappointed about, either with the game or their Open Cup season. Their historic run made them the second professional Third Division team to make the Open Cup Semifinals since MLS began play in 1996, repeating the San Francisco Bay Seals’ 1997 run.
“If you would have said before the start of the season this is where we would have gotten to, I’d be happy,” coach Leigh Cowlishaw beamed. “There’s not a disappointment, there’s not regret. We went out there and played well tonight, and it was a perfect ending to the season from a performance standpoint.”
2011 US Open Cup Semifinals
Richmond Kickers (USL Pro) 1:2 Chicago Fire (MLS)
August 30, 2011 – Toyota Park in Bridgeview, IL
Weather: Cloudy | Attendance: 8,909 (Toyota Park Open Cup record)
CHI – Sebastian Grazzini (PK) – 32nd min.
CHI – Dominic Oduro (Patrick Nyarko) – 61st min.
RIC – William Yomby (Michael Callahan) – 68th min.
RIC – Stanley Nyazamba (Yellow) – 14th min.
RIC – William Yomby (Yellow) – 77th min.
Richmond lineup: Ronnie Pascale (GK), Dave Hertel, William Yomby, Henry Kalungi, Sascha Gorres, Luke Vercollone, Ryan Heins, Stanley Nyazamba, Michael Callahan, Edson Elcock, Matthew Delicate
Subs: Shaka Bangura, Nozomi Hiroyama, Jamel Wallace, Evan Harding, Bobby Fogelsong, Ross MacKenzie
Chicago lineup: Sean Johnson (GK), Dan Gargan, Jalil Anibaba, Cory Gibbs, Gonzalo Sagares, Marco Pappa, Daniel Paladini, Logan Pause, Sebastien Grazzini, Dominic Oduro, Patrick Nyarko
Subs: Jon Conway, Josip Mikulic, Baggio Husidic, Corben Bone, Michael Videira, Orr Barouch, Diego Chaves
SHOTS: 9-6 Chicago
SOG: 5-2 Chicago
SAVES: 3-1 Richmond
FOULS: 13-9 Chicago
CORNERS: 3-2 Chicago
Referee: Jasen Anno
Referee’s Assistants: Anthony Vasoli; Peter Balciunas
Fourth Official: Michael Kennedy
Weather: Overcast, later rain and 78 degrees