It was a game of explosive chances as the Chicago Fire erupted for three goals with each score starting out of their defensive zone before finding Patrick Nyarko, David Accam and Kennedy Igboananike that ultimately left Orlando City with a 3-1 defeat.
The Men in Red got off to a blistering start when goalkeeper Jon Busch punted a ball from his own box that found an opportunistic Nyarko ready to split the central defense. As Busch’s pass bounced toward the Orlando City box, Nyarko slipped in and on his first touch shot the ball to the lower left post to beat a diving Tally Hall, giving the Fire an early 1-0 lead. For Busch, he joined a short list of goalkeepers who have been credited with assists. In the Modern Era, according to TheCup.us records, Busch is just the ninth goalkeeper to directly contribute to a goal.
The remainder of the first half would belong to the Fire as Orlando City, featuring former FIFA World Player of the Year Kaka, failed to get a single shot on goal and only attempted two shots total in the opening frame. Chicago was bolstered by the return of Shaun Maloney, who found Harry Shipp early for a few modest chances the led to shots off the post.
The attack continued to build with left back Joevin Jones, who returned from international duty with Trinidad & Tobago. He had one interception in the first half that resulted him dribbling all the way upfield before being fouled right outside the Orlando City box. The ensuing free kick was taken by Maloney who put his shot on goal but was answered by Hall who deflected it over the bar.
Orlando City’s only chances in the opening half came on corner kicks. All four of their attempts from the corner were caught by Busch or punched out by the veteran keeper with no real dangerous moments.
The Lions came out with more fight in the second half, controlling the flow of the game for the first 15 minutes. Orlando City took advantage of its only shot on goal in the 56th minute when Eric Avila worked up the right flank and sent in a pinpoint cross to Cyle Larin who headed home the equalizer with no real pressure from the defense.
The game took a feel of deja vu after the Larin equalizer, as he was also responsible for the equalizer in Toyota Park in a June MLS match that eventually ended with Orlando City taking a 3-2 victory. But a repeat of that performance was not in the cards.
After the Orlando City goal, Chicago regained control and dictated the flow of the game the rest of the way. Frank Yallop brought on speedsters David Accam in the 59th minute and Kennedy Igboananike in the 66th minute, turning the game completely in favor of the home team.
Accam took no time making his presence felt, forcing a diving save from Hall in the 63rd minute that led to a rebound effort from Jason Johnson just missing the frame.
But like the first goal, Chicago would use its speed to open Orlando City for the lead. Defensive midfielder Matt Watson sent a pass from the Fire’s zone to Accam who raced up the left side in a one-on-one situation. Accam took a shot that deflected off the near post, falling to the feet of an unmarked Igboananike in the middle of the box who easily put the chance away.
“David has world-class speed,” Yallop said of Accam’s game changing performance. “The whole team was excellent tonight.”
Though Orlando City looked to press after the Accam goal, Chicago’s defense would spring another counter attack. Joevin Jones played a long pass toward Igboananike in the 91st minute and the Nigerian made no mistake as he blazed passed the lone defender and danced around a diving Hall to shoot across his body and bury the 3-1 security goal.
The impressive spell of possession and tight defense led the Fire to 18 shots, six of which were on goal compared to Orlando’s five shots with only the Larin header hitting the frame.
“When we have our guys on the field we are pretty good,” Yallop said of finally seeing injured stars such as Maloney and Accam take the field. “I thought we thoroughly deserved to win the game.”
The victory added to the Chicago Fire’s lengthy Open Cup resume. The club’s 37 tournament wins remain a Modern Era record and with a fifth straight win at Toyota Park, the Fire improve to 23-1-1 (0-1 PKs) at home.
Chicago also made history tonight by reaching the Semifinals for the 11th time, tying an all-time record held by Kutis Soccer Club of St. Louis. Kutis, a two-time champion (1957, 1986), made their 11 Semifinal appearances over four decades from 1953 to 1986.
Conversely, Orlando City failed to make it to the Semifinals on its second attempt, once again falling to Chicago in the Quarterfinals after suffering the same fate in 2013 when they were a USL PRO team. Orlando City head coach Adrian Heath said unlike the 2013 performance when the Lions were coming in as a third-division underdog, there was no excuse for the toothless performance.
Calling the performance sloppy and embarrassing, the England native said the club failed to seize an opportunity for a major trophy.
“We were second best on every decision,” Heath said. “We played slow. We played sloppy.”
The Chicago Fire will now advance to the final four for the third year in a row. They are just the sixth MLS team to achieve that feat and the only club in tournament history to do it twice. (The Fire reached four straight from 2003-06), and the 18th team in tournament history. The Fire will travel to Philadelphia on Aug. 12 to take on last year’s runner-up, the Union, as Chicago’s quest for a record-tying fifth title continues.
HIGHLIGHTS: ORLANDO CITY SC AT CHICAGO FIRE
POSTGAME: FRANK YALLOP, CHICAGO FIRE
POSTGAME: KENNEDY IGBOANANIKE, CHICAGO FIRE
FULL MATCH REPLAY: ORLANDO CITY SC AT CHICAGO FIRE