UPDATE: The Round of 16 draw was conducted by the US Soccer Federation and it was determined that the Chicago Fire will host the Charlotte Independence (USL) in the next round.
A Quincy Amarikwa header in the 116th minute gave the Chicago Fire a 1-0 victory after a strong challenge from Louisville City FC in its first-ever game against an MLS side.
The Fire, who are now 25-1-1 in Open Cup games in Illinois, looked in danger of dropping only their second tournament game in Illinois as they couldn’t crack a difficult and stingy Louisville City FC side until late in extra time at Toyota Park. The deciding goal came after second-half substitute Guly do Prado fired a shot toward the top right corner of the goal. Amarikwa saw the shot and quickly threw his head in front for a bang-bang deflection goal.
Amarikwa had missed roughly three quality chances in the second half and struggled to find the frame in the first as well. Despite his struggles, the forward kept his work rate up and said after the game it was that kind of effort from all his teammates that led to winning the hard fought match.
“That’s what happens in these Open Cup games,” said Amarikwa who now has four career US Open Cup goals. “They’re scrappy, the other team is looking for something to prove and it makes it hard to break down. We knew that all we had to do was keep going.”
The Fire threatened a few times in the second half after a more evenly matched first half. Dynamic midfielder Harry Shipp set up a pair of chances within five minutes as roughly 15 minutes remained in the second half. One service to Amarikwa was shot wide on an attempt from the top of the box while another ball to Prado could not be headed on target.
Chicago had a flurry of corner kick opportunities in the second half, but the consistent presence near the final third opened up a couple counter attack opportunities for Louisville. The USL side looked primed to score in the 85th minute.
Former Fire striker and MLS veteran Matt Fondy found Naill McCabe streaking down the left side. McCabe, who was alone entering the box and sizing up Sean Johnson, was unexpectedly cut off by Adailton who tackled the ball away at the last second.
That attempt followed a lesser threat in the 73rd minute from Charlie Adams who sent a shot over the crossbar.
Fire coach Frank Yallop said while it was not the prettiest of performances, it was an important win to gain confidence in the team’s aspirations of winning a record-tying fifth Open Cup title and turning around their fortunes in league play where they have lost three straight.
“It wasn’t pretty … but what I will say is we kept going, we won the game and we’re into the next round. We kept fighting. We kept pushing,” Yallop said.
Louisville City FC gave the Fire all they could handle in the first half, limiting dangerous chances and coming up with one of their own.
The best chance of the game came in the 22nd minute when a failed clearance in the box fell to Louisville’s Magnus Rasmussen near the top of the 18-yard box. Rasmussen connected, but the shot deflected off the crossbar, missing by inches.
The Fire had the better of the possession and consistently attacked the right side of the Louisville defense. Fire left back Greg Cochrane and midfielder Michael Stephens were looked to often, but the best chance for the Fire came in the 31st minute when Jason Johnson forced a turnover at the top of Louisville’s box. The ball deflected to Amarikwa who was all alone in the center of the box, but he sent his rushed shot just wide on an onrushing Scott Goodwin.
The Fire had one last surge in the 43rd minute when a Greg Cochrane cross was grazed by a diving header effort from Johnson. Louisville cleared the ball to the top of the box where Matt Watson had a clean shot that went wide of the net.
Louisville’s Fondy forced a diving save from Sean Johnson in the 11th minute for the Fire keeper’s only save of the half.
FULL MATCH REPLAY: LOUISVILLE CITY AT CHICAGO FIRE