It took four hours to play 48 minutes of soccer but that is all the Chicago Fire needed to get past the Pittsburgh Riverhounds 2-1 Wednesday at Toyota Park.
The match was called off the 49th minute when lightning once again appeared in Chicago skies after the weather had already caused a two-hour rain delay that pushed the start of the game to 9:30 p.m. and another 60-minute delay that forced the beginning of the second half to 11:30 p.m.
“We did everything we could to try to play the game despite multiple delays, but we felt it was best to terminate the game due to player and fan safety,” said Nate Boyden, U.S. Soccer match commissioner.
Before the game was called, Tottenham Hotspur loanee Grant Ward and reigning MLS MVP Mike Magee tallied a goal each to lead the Fire past the USL PRO’s Pittsburgh Riverhounds. The game was official once it hit the 45-minute mark.
“It is good to get a win, it’s been a while,” Fire coach Frank Yallop said. “Against any opposition it’s difficult to play good soccer, and I thought we did create some good chances.”
After a feeling out period in the first 10 minutes for both teams, the Fire started to take control with the majority of the action taking place in Pittsburgh’s half. As the Riverhounds’ defense was pinned back, Ward and Quincy Amarikwa found themselves with the ball often.
In the 21st minute, Ward won a corner. While the team did not score directly off the opportunity, the Fire maintained possession. The ball eventually fell to Amarikwa who laid the ball off in the box for Ward who was making a diagonal run in, and slotted home a low finish to the far post to beat Hunter Gilstrap.
“I saw the defender was proper tight on me, and I was quite wide and deep, so then I just saw space, and I just ran into it, and Quincy saw me,” Ward said of his goal.
The Fire kept the pressure on. Amarikwa once again made a key pass into the box to Matt Watson who was shut down. The failed attempt was followed by a Harry Shipp shot that was easily saved by Gilstrap.
In the 38th minute, captain Jeff Larentowicz won a corner kick. Shipp took the corner kick which was headed down by Larentowicz to the feet of Magee who rifled a shot top shelf to give the Fire 2-0 lead.
The cushion was short lived as Pittsburgh mounted an attack one minute later, focusing on the right side as it had in the early portions of the match. After winning a free kick to the right of the box, the Riverhounds capitalized on a scramble in front of goal with Andrew Marshall heading the ball toward the net.
Larentowicz was on the goal line and attempted to clear the header, but referee Alex Chilowicz ruled the ball had completely crossed the line before it was kicked aside.
In the few moments the Riverhounds did control the play, former Fire player and Pittsburgh captain Collins John found little to enjoy in his return to Toyota Park. The target man had sparse touches and was unable to attempt a single shot.
Jose Angulo was in the middle of any and all Riverhound buildups, but he could not find the offensive support needed to be a threat.
With only two full minutes played in the second half, Magee nearly netted a brace when a free kick fell to him while he was unmarked in the box. He shot the ball hard and high, but it deflected straight down before hitting the goal line and bouncing out. Seconds later the game was called by the referees after lightening appeared in the area.
Chicago moves on to the Fifth Round at 7:30 p.m. on June 25 against the Columbus Crew at Toyota Park.
MORE: Yallop, Match Commissioner talk weather shortened 2-1 Open Cup win over Pittsburgh (Chicago-Fire.com)
MORE: Know the Rules: Magee says Fire set out to have halftime lead in shortened Open Cup match (Chicago-Fire.com)
HIGHLIGHTS: PITTSBURGH RIVERHOUNDS at CHICAGO FIRE