When: Wednesday June 25th at 7:30PM
Where: Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Illinois
Where to Watch: Toyota Park Stands, Streaming live on Chicago-Fire.com
Hey, What Happened?
Last week, the round of 32 took place in the US Open Cup. There were several upsets; lower division teams knocked out such notables as the New York Red Bulls, Real Salt Lake, and defending Open Cup holders DC United.
That obviously wasn't the case for the two teams that will meet Wednesday night in Chicago. In the fourth round the Columbus Crew took on NASL new comer Indy XI in a game that took extra time to settle. The Crew took the lead early in the 1st half from the head of Bernardo Anor but were drawn level when Blake Smith found the back of the net for Indy. The Crew managed to find a winner when Jairo Arrieta put away a penalty in the 115th after Ethan Finley was brought down in the box.
The Fire. on the other hand, managed a 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Riverhounds during a weather-shortened game that only lasted about 50 minutes of game time spread over four-plus hours. First-half strikes from Grant Ward and Mike Magee boosted the Men in Red before Andrew Marshall answered for the Riverhounds. The weather proved to be too much for the match continue though, and what the Fire did before half time was enough to see them through to the round of 16.
Hey, What's Happening?
This week features an all-MLS tie at Toyota Park for a spot in the quarterfinals. Deja vu rears its ugly head, as this is a repeat of last season's fifth-round matchup between the two teams when weather postponed the match over 12 hours. The Fire eventually won the tie 2-1 with goals from Magee and Patrick Nyarko.
Hey, What Should Happen?
This fifth-round tie is looking like it will come down to whichever team has the stronger lineup. New Crew coach Greg Berhalter will have plenty of decisions to make when it comes to his first-choice XI. According to the Columbus Dispatch, the Crew may only have 15 players available because of injuries and suspensions. Federico Higuain is coming off a hamstring injury so he will more than likely be unavailable, Wil Trapp just started training again after a knee sprain, Alvaro Rey is unavailable after playing for Toronto in the Canadian Championship, and they have to deal with suspensions to Adam Bedell and Daniel Paladini. All of this, coupled with the fact that the Crew resume league play versus FC Dallas on Saturday night, means Berhalter may have to pick and choose who he starts and how long they play for in order to keep fresh legs for two games in four days.
That should be great news for the Fire and head coach Frank Yallop. The Fire have their long term injury concerns of Patrick Nyarko and Gonzalo Segares, but other than those two, Yallop should be able to field a much stronger starting eleven than he did versus the Riverhounds. With the Fire not resuming league for another week there is no reason why he should not put his first-choice starters out there. Unless the Fire turn their league play around - as they did in the second half of last season - this will be the only real chance at claiming silverware and reclaiming the title of "Kings of the Cup".
An additional factor in the Fire's favor is motivational. In their last meeting with Team Bananarama, la Maquina Roja were humiliated 3-0. In that game, Higuain dissected a high Fire line with a barrage of lovely through balls, while Trapp helped Tony Tchani mark Shipp out of the game. It's a surety that no one in the Chicago locker room wants any kind of replay of that performance.
Hey, What's Going to Happen?
As of Tuesday morning the weather forecast for Wednesday night predicts it will be gorgeous night for Open Cup action, with little chance of a rain and a daytime high of 73 degrees. As for the game, I think that Yallop will field his strongest team since the Fire don't have a league game until July 2. It seems likely the Crew, facing fixture congestion and a short bench, will play a very conservative game just hoping for the chance to take the match to penalties.
With all that said, I think this will end in a 2-0 Fire win, with both goals coming from Harry Shipp. A win would set up a quarterfinal away tie with the winner of the Colorado Rapids/Atlanta Silverbacks 5th round matchup as US Soccer setup the potential quarterfinal matchups with the remaining 16 teams on Monday.