Lewis Hilton celebrates with his Saint Louis FC teammates in a 2019 US Open Cup Fourth Round match against the Chicago Fire. Photo: Saint Louis FC
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Saint Louis FC reached the Fifth Round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup for the first time in club history with a stunning 2-1 victory over the Chicago Fire at Harlen C. Hunter Stadium in St Charles, Missouri. With the game relocated from the Worldwide Technology Soccer Park in Fenton due to the Meramec River flood waters covering the roads around the stadium, the game had an away day feel for both sets of fans going into the game.
The Chicago Fire started the game well and dominated early. For the first ten minutes they were camped inside the Saint Louis half and the goal from Austin Martz, a diving header from a Russell Cicerone cross was somewhat against the run of play in the 17th minute.
It was the fourth career US Open Cup goal for Martz, who previously scored goals for the Baltimore Bohemians (2014) and the Wilmington Hammerheads (2016).
The Saint Louis FC fans had hardly had time to catch their breath before the green and blue doubled their lead with a swinging Lewis Hilton cross being headed home by Israeli midfielder Guy Abend, who beat the keeper for his second goal of the tournament.
Chicago looked shellshocked and disjointed by this turn of events and struggled to regain their foothold in the game. Halftime came at just the right juncture for them as they were able to regroup for the second 45 minutes.
Austin Martz of Saint Louis FC celebrates his goal against the Chicago Fire in the Fourth Round of the 2019 US Open Cup. Photo: Saint Louis FC
As expected, they laid siege to Tomas Gomez in the Saint Louis net, but that enabled STLFC to counter with pace and Cicerone and Martz were a constant thorn in the Fire’s side with Dikwa in the middle running between the back four. St. Louis almost garnered a third as another cross into the middle by Hilton was smacked against the post by the onrushing Caleb Calvert.
Chicago finally did get on the board when Djordje Mihailovic was fouled in the box and Nemanja Nikolic made no mistake from the spot in the 71st minute. after 71 minutes. It was the fifth career US Open Cup goal for Nikolic who scored four during last year’s tournament.
Chicago continued to press, but Saint Louis were not to be denied their first win against an MLS opponent having fallen short against previous games against Sporting Kansas City (2015) and the Fire just two years ago.
Coach Pulis was obviously ecstatic after the game.
“I’m really proud of the players, I think the effort they put in tonight was immense,” said Pulis. “I genuinely believed we could win the game tonight.”
It was a stunning loss for the Fire as they were taking part in their 10th Fourth Round game in club history and for the first time, they were eliminated.
Saint Louis will find out who their Round of 16 opponent will be when the United States Soccer Federation conducts the draw on Thursday.