Mitch Hildebrandt made 10 saves, then stopped three of four Chicago Fire penalty kicks after extra time to help FC Cincinnati advance in the Round of 16 of the 2017 US Open Cup Wednesday night. After 120 minutes of scoreless soccer, Cincinnati won the shootout 3-1 sending one of the biggest crowds in tournament history into a frenzy at Nippert Stadium.
“The team was absolutely unbelievable. The amount of work they put in for 120 minutes…I can’t even fathom how they feel right now,” Hildebrandt said. “You dream of moment. Bottom of the ninth hitting a home run in the World Series, that’s the American version of this. You just want to be there for your team. You try not to think about any of the pressure. A World Cup winner stands up to take a penalty against you and you try to forget who he is and try to stop the ball. It’s exciting.”
Cincinnati will travel for their next match, a meeting with Miami FC of the NASL. The two second tier clubs matching up ensures there will be at least one lower division representative in the semifinals this year. The game will be played July 12.
“That’s a very good team packed with a lot of big time stars,” said FC Cincinnati manager Alan Koch, “I’m very proud of the team. I’m equally as proud of the club and the job they do to promote…it’s absolutely first class. I’m also proud of the city of Cincinnati. Their passion, you don’t get that in many places. There is a lot of passion in our sport across the world, but that was pretty unique tonight.”
— FC Cincinnati (@fccincinnati) June 29, 2017
FC Cincinnati continues to break records on their way through the Cup. For the second time in a row, the club broke the non-final attendance record, this time bringing in 32,287 fans for the Round of 16 matchup against Chicago.
Cincinnati’s lineup was vastly different from previous Open Cup matches. Noticeably absent was forward Djiby Fall, who had scored all three game winning goals in the tournament so far. Also absent was defender Tyler Polak who came up with multiple blocks in the prior game against Columbus Crew SC.
On the other side of the ball, the Fire didn’t pull any punches. Leading MLS goalscorer Nemanja Nikolic started, as did Bastian Schweinsteiger, Juninho, and Michael de Leeuw. But the vaunted Fire attack, which had won nine consecutive games in all competitions, launched 26 shots at the Cincinnati goal but ultimately fell in penalty kicks.
Despite having 70 percent possession and outshooting Cincinnati 26-20, Chicago could never find the back of the net. This was due in large part to the outstanding net minding by Hildebrandt. The only kick he didn’t save was in the shootout on a goal by World Cup and UEFA Champions League veteran in Schweinsteiger.
Josu, Harrison Delbridge, and Jimmy McLaughlin scored on their kicks in the victory.
The passion was on full display when Cincinnati thought they found the game winner in extra time when Andrew Wiedeman slotted the ball past a diving Matt Lampson, but the assistant referee called it offside. Replay shows Wiedeman was onside, and to add insult to injury he picked up a yellow card for taking off his jersey in celebration.
“This group was fantastic. Normally after a moment when you think you scored it’s pretty deflating,” Koch said, “give the guys a lot of credit for bouncing back and keep on pushing and keep on going.”