Games like last night are the reason the US Open Cup and tournaments of this ilk exist. Coming into this game, 3rd division Orlando City Soccer Club was a true Cinderella. They beat both the Colorado Rapids and last year's winners Sporting Kansas City to get to this point. And if that weren't enough warning for the Chicago Fire faithful, the Lions hadn't lost in league play since April 10th, a 1-0 defeat at the hands of the Los Angeles Blues. Their only other loss this year? A 4-3 goal fest with Brazilian giants Fluminense last Saturday. So it made it all the more dramatic as the story of this 100th tournament stepped in to take on the kings of the modern era Open Cup.
Right off the bat, it didn't seem to be City's night. James O'Connor went down untouched and had to be helped off the field and subbed off. Christian Duke was the man that came on for him. And then, the Fire burned.
Mike Magee played Dilly Duka into the corner, and as he has been doing for the last several games, Duka used a terrific display of ball skill to get away from the defender in front of him, and crossed it on to the head of a waiting Chris, who placed it into the back of the net. This was Rolfe's second of the year. His first came against the Charlotte Eagles earlier in the tournament.
And Duka almost had one of his own in the 11th. Another fantastic run, this time around four Lions players was capped with a shot that went just wide of the far post. But he didn't miss by a whole lot.
The next great opportunity for the Fire came in the 38th minute. Chris Rolfe could have had a second, but scuffed a centering pass from Mike Magee in the box. While the cross was good, his shot rolled harmlessly into the hands of Lions goalkeeper Gallardo.
The Fire went into the half with a lead for the first time since their 2-0 victory over DC United. Unfortunately for them, they would once again give up a goal, and of course, it would come on a set piece. Orlando City center back Rob Valentino slipped a short corner past Sean Johnson and knotted it up at one. In response to the goal, Daniel Paladini was to come on for Alex in the 54th. However, Orlando City kept pressing and had a golden opportunity in the 57th minute, when they hit the post. That goal would have changed the game, however it missed, and that set the stage for the rest of the match.
Patrick Nyarko, as he so often does, scored a goal so nice he made Brendan Hannan yell his signature "Yahtzee!" A brilliant run on the right side off a turnover was capped by a professional finish across the face of goal, and suddenly, just like that, the Fire were in control again 2-1. And even more amazing, Nyarko was playing while not being able to breathe properly since he was fouled early in the first half. "It really hurts when I breathe right now." He told us in the locker room after the game. "I wasn't going to get through the entire game. The coaches said I could go another ten fifteen minutes. When I scored the goal, I wanted to set the team up before I came out... Breathing all the way in was hard. But it was a mental thing; I just decided to go as hard as I can until I couldn't go anymore." He had an X-Ray post game, but we still don't know the results.
Chris Rolfe was fantastic tonight. With help from Jeff Larentowicz, he was able to score his again to make it 3-1. A cheeky chip over the keeper was the finish of a class all-around play. Larentowicz won the ball at midfield, then played a give and go with Rolfe to get the assist on the play.
From there, it got worse for the Lions. Yann Songo'o received a red card for denying a goal scoring opportunity for Joel Lindpere just outside the box.
Mike Magee almost didn't score for the first time in a Fire shirt, and yet, somehow he managed to bag his "mythical" 7th goal in 7 games with the club. Maicon Santos really should get most of the credit, though. His pass was perfect- 30 yards on a diagonal past not one, but two City defenders, and right on to Magee's foot. All Magee had to do was put it in to the back of the net. Gallardo got chipped for the second time that night, and it went in. 4-1.
A second Red was given to Orlando. Adama Mbengue slid into Jalil Anibaba, with zero intent to play the ball. And their fate was sealed. The Clock had struck midnight, and The Fire were on to the semifinals.
Lindpere decided to send them to the morgue because that's the Chicago Way. In the 90+1st minute from with an assist from Dilly Duka, he made the third cheeky chip of the night, and finished off the Lions. Section 8 serenaded the stadium with a rendition of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." It was cute. The score line, however, was anything but. When the dust was settled and the smoke was cleared, The Fire had five goals. Orlando had one.
The Fire must next take on DC United, who are tied with the Fire for most semifinals reached with 7. That game isn't until August 7th, however. In their more immediate plans, they await the struggling San Jose Earthquakes next Wednesday.
(Statistics via Chicago-Fire.com)
Chicago Fire 5 - 1 Orlando City SC
Chicago Fire: Sean Johnson; Jalil Anibaba, Austin Berry, Bakary Soumare, Gonzalo Segares; Patrick Nyarko (Joel Lindpere 66'), Alex (Daniel Paladini 54'), Jeff Larentowicz ©, Dilly Duka, Mike Magee, Chris Rolfe (Maicon Santos 80')
Orlando City SC: Miguel Gallardo (C); Yann Songo'o, Bryan Burke, Luke Boden, Rob Valentino; Anthony Pulis (Dennis Chin 65'), Adama Mbengue, James O'Connor (Christian Duke 4'), Kevin Molino (Jean Alexandre 87'); Dominic Dwyer, Long Tan
Substitutes not used: Jonathan Kempin, Oumar Diakhite
CHI - Chris Rolfe (Dilly Duka) 6'
OCS - Rob Valentino (unassisted) 51'
CHI - Patrick Nyarko (unassisted) 59'
CHI - Chris Rolfe (Jeff Larentowicz) 64'
CHI - Mike Magee (Maicon Santos) 83'
CHI - Joel Lindpere (Dilly Duka) 90+'
OCS - Christian Duke (caution) 21'
CHI - Alex (caution) 24'
OCS - Yann Songo'o (ejection) 71'
CHI - Gonzalo Segares (caution) 73'
OCS - Bryan Burke (caution) 76'
OCS - Adama Mbengue (ejection) 86'
Referee: Sorin Stoica
Assistants: Jason Cullum
Fourth Official: Jason White