It took over 120 minutes and penalty kicks, but USL League One’s Union Omaha made their journey to Soldier Field and defeated Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire 3-2 (5-4 penalty kicks) in the third round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Dion Acoff, who entered the match in the 62nd minute, scored the game-winning penalty kick in the 6th round of kicks to send the Owls into the fourth round in what is their first appearance in this tournament.
Fire Defender Rafael Czichos, who was a late addition to the Fire’s starting 11, scored each of the Fire’s goals from the penalty spot. Union Omaha was able to score each of their goals from open-play, responding to each of the Fire’s goals in combination with scores from Noe Meza and Alex Touche, respectively.
After sharing the ball in the opening moments, the Fire dominated possession in the first half.
🎬 Noe Meza scores his first professional goal to level the match against @ChicagoFire.
— ⭐️ Union Omaha (@Union_Omaha) April 20, 2022
The first action of the match came in the form of a seventh minute caution against Chicago’s Sergio Oregel for a dangerous tackle on Emir Alihodzic. Making his debut in the Fire’s first team, the 16-year-old Oregel Jr. nearly played the full 90 minutes for the Fire, coming off in second half stoppage time.
The Fire’s defense was shaky early. Union Omaha nearly broke through after Jhon Jairo Espinoza turned the ball over deep in the Fire’s own half. Omaha’s Alex Bruce cut across the penalty area with the ball, but was unable to secure a shot on goal.
The Fire nearly responded with a goal of their own. After winning successive corners in the 20th minute, the ball bounced around the penalty area until it found Kendall Burks. Burks’ effort went off the post and the Fire attack was turned away.
Moments later, Durán broke through the Omaha defense and eventually found the Brian Gutierrez. Gutierrez ripped a shot on goal, which was deflected away by Rashid Nuhu.
The Fire nearly broke through on a 42nd minute corner kick. Chinoso Offor met the ball at its apex and found the target, only for Nuhu to turn it away.
The match was scoreless after 45 minutes, with the Fire controlling the ball 69% of the first half to the tune of six corners and four shots on goal. First touches let the Fire’s strikers down, while Union Omaha struggled to maintain possession once their counter was thwarted.
Chicago was finally able to jump ahead in the 53rd minute. Jhon Durán was mauled in the penalty area by a recently introduced Eddie Gordon, giving Chicago the opportunity from the penalty spot.
The Fire’s Raphael Czichos, a last-minute addition to the starting lineup, took the penalty kick and drilled it into the right-corner of the net to give the Fire a 1-0 lead.
After exchanging possession for a few minutes, Union Omaha finally struck back when they finally got their first shot on goal.
Following a few shots that were turned away by Chicago Fire defenders, the ball fell to the foot of Omaha substitute Noe Meza in the 68th minute inside the penalty area. Meza unleashed a rocket off his right foot that found the back of the Fire net to level the match at one, earning his first professional goal in the process.
Omaha nearly struck again in the 86th minute. The ball was crossed into the Chicago penalty area before being half-cleared by keeper Spencer Richey. The ball bounced between Omaha forwards, before the Fire were finally able to thwart the Owls’ attack.
Chicago should’ve won the match in regulation. Brian Gutierrez’s 90th minute cross found the head of Chinoso Offor, who turned the ball toward the net. The ball bounced in front of goal, just missing the foot of Victor Bezerra before Omaha was able to clear.
That would be the last chance for either team in regulation.
A poor tackle from Jhon Jairo Espinoza gave Union Omaha a free-kick just outside of the penalty area in the 98th minute for the first real chance of extra time. Alihodzic struck the ball well with his right foot, but the effort was turned away by Spencer Richey.
— ⭐ Omaha Parliament (@OmahaParliament) April 20, 2022
Minutes later, Chicago Fire nearly had a goal of their own. After making a run down the channel, Stanislav Ivanov found Kacper Pryzbylko in front of goal, but the Fire’s number 11 missed his shot wide.
In the second extra time period, Meza nearly secured a brace for the Owls. After taking two dribbles in the 111th minute, Meza unleashed a rocket that was deflected away by Chicago’s Richey.
It took until the 115th minute for the Fire to regain the lead. Brian Gutierrez was tackled in the penalty area by Omaha’s Alihodzic, earning the Fire a penalty. Again, it was Czichos who buried the penalty into the right corner to give the Fire the 2-1 lead.
But Union Omaha refused to go away. In the waning moments of the second period of extra time, the Owls drew level once again. Following a run down the right flank, the ball fell perfectly to the substitute Alex Touche. Touche took his time and pushed the ball past Richey to tie the match at 2 in the 122nd minute, sending the match to penalty kicks.
Kacper Pryzbylko was the first to step to the penalty spot and the Fire striker’s shot screamed off the bar. After exchanging goals, Noe Meza’s effort was saved by a diving Richey to level the penalties at 2. Both clubs exchanged two more goals before the Fire’s Miguel Navarro had his penalty saved by Nuhu diving to his right. The Owls’ Dion Acoff stepped up to the spot and scored, securing the first USL League One upset over a MLS team in Open Cup history after winning the penalty shootout 5-4.
Chicago Fire Manager Ezra Hendrickson did not mince words in his post-match press conference when describing his team’s performance. “I don’t think tonight we displayed Chicago Fire soccer,” said Hendrickson. “It was just not intense enough. We didn’t play fast enough and I felt like we were too casual on the night.
“We warned these guys that, when you play a team like this from a lower division, they feel like they have a lot to prove. They’re gonna come, they’re gonna bring intensity, they’re gonna bring the effort and we have to match that. And I don’t think that we did that tonight.”
— ⭐️ Union Omaha (@Union_Omaha) April 20, 2022
Union Omaha advance to the round of 32 which will be played on May 10 and 11. The round of 32 draw will take place Friday, April 22.