In the summer of 2001 I just finished my junior year of college, took my first trip overseas, and as a Chicago Fire supporter was enjoying a season that was consistent like the previous three. By the end of July, the Fire had a record in league play that nowadays can only be dreamed by the cf97 faithful - 12 wins, 3 ties and 3 losses through 18 games including one of the largest margins of victory to date in league play, when the Fire beat Kansas City 7-0 at Arrowhead Stadium. The previous season the Fire lost in the MLS Cup final to the Kansas City Wizards but ended up winning the US Open Cup versus the now defunct Miami Fusion. The team featured cf97 greats like Chris Armas, C.J. Brown, Peter Nowak, Carlos Bocanegra, Josh Wolff and Hristo Stoitchkov. All in all it was shaping up to be a fun season.
During the 2001 edition of the US Open Cup the Fire decided to host their US Open Cup quarterfinal match at Wheaton College. The opponent was the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of the old USL A-league, the same club CF97 will face in the fourth round tomorrow evening, now participants in USL Pro. The Fire reached the quarterfinals by beating the Kansas City Wizards in the round of 16 the San Diego Flash the round before. The Riverhounds beat the Colorado Rapids and the El Paso Patriots in order to reach the quarterfinals.
It was a warm Tuesday at the end of July not very many clouds in the sky. The game day began like many others during that season, get off of work and meet up with friends to cook out and have a few beers before kickoff. Since I was living in Batavia at the time we held our pregame festivities at a friend's house as the drive to Wheaton was only 15 minutes. I arrived about 45 minutes before kickoff and found a spot to stand by one corner of the field with the rest of the Barnburners 1871 and Fire Ultras '98. When we saw the starting lineup we knew it was a prototypical Bob Bradley starting lineup for an Open Cup game. Mainly starters with a few subs filling in but always putting the best team out on the field no matter the competition. Zach Thornton in net, a back line that featured CJ Brown, Jim Curtin, Evan Whitfield and Diego Gutierrez. In the middle was Jesse Marsch, Chris Armas, Dema Kovalenko, and Sergi Daniv who were feeding the strike partnership of Jamar Beasley and Hristo Stoitchkov.
We all thought that the Fire would be able to easily beat the lower-league opponent. Then the match kicked off and before you know it, former Miami Fusion striker Welton had put Pittsburgh in front just nine minutes in. After Kovalenko was brought down in the 18-yard box, Stoitchkov was able to level the score. It wasn't until early in the second half that the Fire were able to take the lead through a beauty strike from Dema Kovalenko. We all thought, "Here comes the semi-finals" and that the Fire were going to ride out the win. That was until former Fire midfielder, Paul Dougherty, lined up a looping ball that found its way over Thornton to even up the score.
So they went into sudden death extra time and a legend was born. As the Fire peppered the Riverhounds goal with shot after shot in order to end the tie, it wasn't until the 111th minute when Sergi Daniv found some open space on the right side and was able to send a cross into the mixer.
What happened next would be written into Fire lore. As the ball came in it took one bounce off the turf and find its way to an on rushing Amos Magee. The thing is is that the ball was a tweener, skidding just a couple feet off the ground. Magee was not able to get his foot on the ball nor his head, so he improvised, putting the ball past Randy Dedini in the Pittsburgh net by using his chest.
Since that warm July night in Wheaton Illinois the legend of Amos "Chesty" Magee was born and will forever live in the memories of all who were present that night, and of Fire fans who've shared the tale onward.