Mike Magee scored his third goal of the 2013 US Open Cup against the Orlando City SC. Photo: Brian Kersey | Chicago-Fire.com
In its third – and arguably most important – match in an eight-day span, the Chicago Fire hosted North American soccer darlings and MLS aspirants Orlando City SC in a U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinal Wednesday night at Toyota Park and advanced to the semifinals for the ninth time in team history with a 5-1 victory.
While the USL Pro’s Lions looked to prove their worth with yet another tournament upset, the Men in Red were hell-bent on continuing their run towards a historic fifth U.S. Open Cup.
In the modern era, only one lower-division club (Rochester Rhinos, 1999) had ever knocked off three MLS opponents in a row. But the Lions slept on Wednesday night in Bridgeview and saw their hopes end in front of 6,893 raucous Fire fans.
Uncharacteristically, Chicago struck first. Fed by forward Mike Magee on the left flank, winger Dilly Duka ran toward the byline and cut a 90 degree angle, perpendicular to goal at the edge of the penalty area. Duka made a move to drive into the box, but instead fed a streaking Chris Rolfe at its edge for a header past Lions keeper Miguel Gallardo in the sixth minute for his second goal in 2013 USOC competition.
“I thought Dilly was going to serve it first time, so I made my initial run, but as I started to back out, I gave a little shake to the right, the defender kind of fell back on his heels, and allowed me the space to come at the near post,” said Rolfe.
The Lions responded by showing Chicago they could keep the ball on the ground and play the possession game through the midfield and into the attacking third. But Orlando could find no joy within 20 yards of Sean Johnson’s goal, as center back Bakary Soumare and midfielder Jeff Larentowicz led a Fire defensive effort that snuffed out the Lions’ attack.
Back and forth action continued through the first half, with neither side seizing a real advantage. Chicago tried to pump and chip long, floating balls over the top and into the box, but Orlando’s back line prevented the creation of any Fire threat. However, Lions ‘keeper Miguel Gallardo did pass a few tests from Magee, Rolfe, Larentowicz by the time the whistle blew.
Shortly after halftime, Orlando City sprung to life and took advantage of what appeared to be a heavy-legged Fire side. For eight of Chicago’s eleven starters, it was their third start in eight days as they came in riding high on a seven-match unbeaten stretch (5-0-2) across all competitions, while the well-rested Lions traveled to the Windy City having only played a home friendly vs. Brazil’s Fluminense (3-4 loss) since upsetting Sporting Kansas City on the road (1-0) two weeks prior.
“We were tired, but we pushed through it,” said 2012 MLS Rookie of the Year Austin Berry, who has logged every possible minute for Chicago in 2013, across all competitions.
After a corner was played on the ground to him, Lions midfielder Kevin Molino found enough space deep on the flank to serve a pinpoint pass to teammate Rob Valentino, who one-timed the ball past Chicago’s Sean Johnson at the near post to knot the game at one in the 51st minute.
For the next seven minutes, Orlando City controlled the run of play. The Lions were in total command as they camped out in Chicago’s defensive third and took pot shots at Sean Johnson. But the Fire keeper would not yield. Johnson foiled two scoring opportunities by Dom Dwyer and Adama Mbengue that left the Lions perplexed after having their way with Chicago for a significant period of time.
“Sean had a great second half,” said teammate Dilly Duka. “He helped us come back into this game, and then we finished our chances.”
While the Fire fell asleep temporarily and paid the price, they soon woke up in a big way, led by Patrick Nyarko and Chris Rolfe.
After possessing a less-than-stellar goal kick from Johnson, Nyarko found space on the left and drove, undefended, towards the near post. Orlando’s back line could not get itself organized in time and Chicago’s Ghanaian winger made them pay with an on-the-ground far post netter that put the Fire up 2-1. To his team’s detriment, Lions keeper Gallardo guessed near post and watched in vain as the eventual game-winner rolled by his outstretched arm.
After the Lions played so well in the beginning of the second half did Nyarko’s strike take the wind out of their sails? “Yes, for sure, said Dilly Duka, who wound up with two assists on the evening. “They were all over us at the start of the second half. Patrick scored, we settled a little, and they kind of sat back after that.”
“Patrick’s goal was a game-changer. At that point it was tied, they had tons of momentum, and we didn’t look like we had much life. Patrick’s goal was the most important moment for us tonight,” revealed Chris Rolfe, who wasn’t yet done on the evening.
In the 64th minute, Jeff Larentowicz chipped forward from just outside the top of the penalty area to Rolfe. Out rushed Gallardo, but his reaction was a split-second tardy, as Rolfe was able to get enough of a foot on the ball to bounce it off the Orlando keeper and into the back of the net.
Sean Johnson wasn’t done yet, however. Dom Dwyer tested the Chicago keeper again after he received a perfect through-ball in stride and put it on target. Johnson made another world-class save and again proved the sole reason why the game wasn’t tied at three by the 70th minute.
“Credit to Orlando,” Johnson said. “They put pressure on us and created chances. But we were able to sustain the attack. We were up for it.”
In the 70th minute, newly-inserted Joel Lindpere was fouled hard on the break at the top of the box. Orlando’s Yann Songo’o denied the Fire winger a scoring opportunity and was issued a straight red card. With the Lions, who had to replace James O’Connor for injury four minutes into the game, down to ten men, the hill to climb proved insurmountable as they suffered their first loss in a competitive match since April 10th.
The dagger came in the 83rd minute, as Mike Magee lofted a goal to the back post after receiving an rolling, right to left 30-yard cross from sub Maicon Santos. Santos provided Magee with an exquisite ball that cut through the entire Orlando defense, allowing him to score his seventh goal in as many contests while wearing Fire red.
Frustrated, the Lions fell apart and lost their composure after a reckless challenge by Mbengue on Chicago right back Jalil Anibaba resulted in a second red card for the Lions, who went down to nine men.
The icing on the Fire’s victory cake was marked by a Joel Lindpere goal in the 90th minute. The Estonian took a long, floating chip from Dilly Duka right up the middle and past Gallardo.
“I’m really disappointed with the result,” said Orlando City head coach Adrian Heath. “I thought five to one score line flattered them. I thought between both boxes we played the best football tonight.”
Heath continued, “They took chances when they created them and we gave away two or three poor goals. When I look and reflect on the game, I think I will be disappointed with both final thirds of the field. The middle, I thought we played some good stuff.”
With the 5-1 result, the Fire extended its unbeaten streak to eight across all competitions, including wins in its last three. Chicago will host MLS Eastern Conference cellar-dwellers D.C. United at Toyota Park in a semifinal battle on August 7th, a prime opportunity for the club to earn its shot at a record-tying fifth U.S. Open Cup crown.
“At this point you’re going to play good teams,” said Fire head coach Frank Klopas. “The good thing is that we’re at home. [D.C. United] is the matchup we wanted. At this point in the semifinals though, there are no easy games.”
“We got the job done,” said Sean Johnson. “Now we’re on to the semifinals and one step closer to winning the cup.”
QUARTERFINAL – Orlando City 1 :: 5 Chicago Fire
Toyota Park – Bridgeview, IL
CHI: Chris Rolfe (Dilly Duka) – 6th min.
ORL: Rob Valentino (Unassisted) – 51st min.
CHI: Patrick Nyarko (Unassisted) – 59th min.
CHI: Chris Rolfe (Jeff Larentowicz) – 63rd min.
CHI: Mike Magee (Maicon Santos) – 83rd min.
CHI: Joel Lindpere (Mike Magee) – 90th+ min.
ORL: Christian Duke (caution) 21, Yann Songo’o (ejection) 71, Bryan Burke (caution) 76, Adama Mbenge (ejection) 86
CHI: Alex (caution) 24, Gonzalo Segares (caution) 73
Orlando: Miguel Gallardo; Bryan Burke, Luke Boden, Yann Songo’o (ejection 71), Rob Valentino; James O’Connor (Christian Duke 4), Kevin Molino (Jean-Marc Alexandre 87), Adama Mbenge (ejection 86), Anthony Pulis (Dennis Chin 65); Long Tan, Dominic Dwyer
Chicago: Sean Johnson; Gonzalo Segares, Jalil Anibaba, Austin Berry, Bakary Soumare; Patrick Nyarko (Joel Lindpere 66), Alex (Dan Paladini 54), Dilly Duka, Jeff Larentowicz; Mike Magee, Chris Rolfe (Maicon Santos 80)