What started as a close affair in Bridgeview, Ill. ended in a rout as the Chicago Fire defeated Louisville City FC, 4-0, to advance to their all-time record 13th Lamar Hunt US Open Cup semifinal. Aleksandar Katai set up Nemanja Nikolic for the opening goal in the 16th minute, then Katai got one of his own 16 minutes later as the Fire held on to their lead throughout the game. Once the 90th minute hit, the four-time US Open Cup champs tacked on two late goals to send most of the 3,322 in attendance — Louisville City fans were well-represented — home happy. The Fire extended their home unbeaten streak in the US Open Cup to nine games and improve their impressive all-time home record in the tournament to 26-1-2 (1-1 PKs).
The Fire move on to play against the Philadelphia Union in the Semifinals. The date and location of the game will be determined on Thursday when the US Soccer Federation performs the draw to determine the hosts for the Semifinals and the hosting priorities for the Final. This will take place at 1:45 p.m. ET.
Chicago opened the scoring in 16th minute off a quickly-taken free kick near the Louisville City bench. Having caught the Louisville players off guard, midfielder Brandt Bronico played a ball down the left side of the goal box to Katai whose weighted cross found the head of Nikolic to make it 1-0 Fire.
Chicago’s confidence only grew from there. Katai continued to inspire the home side with quick one-two passing and flicks with teammate Bastian Schweinsteiger up and down the left side of the pitch.
In the 32nd minute, Katai put the Fire on the break from his defensive third by bridging two Louisville players on his way to the opposing 18. After a blocked shot, Schweinsteiger fed the ball into the box and Katai finished into the upper left of the goal.
The workhorse for Louisville City in the match was Brian Ownby, who was named TheCup.us Player of the Round for his performance in City’s upset of the New England Revolution in Round 4. The former University of Virginia standout played a full 90 minutes and continuously ran at the Chicago defense. Brandon Vincent and company did their job to frustrate the attacker and force Louisville into low percentage efforts. The Fire defense held Louisville to just 10 total shots and only three of them made it on target, all of which goalkeeper Richard Sanchez handled to earn his second straight clean sheet in the tournament.
Los Morados (one of Louisville’s nicknames) would keep the game close in the second half, up until the 84th minute when midfielder Kyle Smith saw a straight red for what was judged as a dangerous tackle. With the man advantage, the Fire put on the pressure and put the game away as Diego Campos pounced on a back pass to Louisville goalkeeper Tim Dobrowolski. Dobrowolski, who played his college ball at nearby Loyola University Chicago (LUC), took one touch of the pass but Campos was already on top of him and it was too late. Campos stole the ball and slid it into the empty goal from close range. Later in injury time, Elliot Collier, also an LUC grad, took the ball to the endline and 5-hole Dobrowolski for the Fire’s fourth and final goal of the match. Frustration boiled over after the fourth goal as Louisville City substitute Magnus Rasmussen was sent off after for an altercation with Collier.
In the post-match press conference, Fire coach Veljko Paunovic was quick to dismiss the accomplishment of advancing to the Semifinals, knowing there’s more work to be done.
“We advanced… but still we haven’t done anything [yet],” said Paunovic.
With the win, the Fire add to their Modern Era (1995-present) record with their 42nd tournament win. Louisville City’s Cup run ends, but as the USL team that advanced the furthest in the tournament, their consolation is $25,000 in prize money.