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Fire20: Beating Y2K (and some)

After a hangover season in 1999, the Fire returned to being a powerhouse in North American soccer. Today, we take a look at the pinnacle of their 2000 season.

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Welcome to Fire20, a new weekly series that celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Chicago Fire Soccer Club by making deep dives into the team’s history. This week we take a look back at the 2000 USOC Final.

After a 1999 season that some Fire fans would consider disappointing, Bob Bradley’s side looked to bounce back and return to glory once again.

The season was a rollercoaster, as Chicago started slow in MLS play. However, they came roaring back in the second half of the season and made a run to MLS Cup. Now even though the Fire failed to capture their second first division title in three seasons, they did not walk away from this season empty handed.

Chicago won the 2000 U.S. Open Cup after looking the most dominant side in the tournament. Today though, I would like to focus on a single game of the new millennium’s first American cup competition: the final. A highly anticipated matchup between the Miami Fusion and the Men in Red.

The match itself lived up to the hype surrounding it. There was a U.S. Open Cup record 19,146 people in attendance at Soldier Field, and the atmosphere surrounding the Fire display was electric. If you don’t believe me, watch below:

The scoring was opened by Fire, Bulgaria and Barcelona legend Hristo Stoitchkov just before halftime, as he finished off a squared ball from Ante Razov. However, the true credit to this goal belongs to Fire Captain Peter Nowak as his pristine through-ball opened up the Fusion defense.

And in the 88th minute, the Fire secured their title, with a little help from Fusion defender Tyrone Marshall. DaMarcus Beasley, who at the time was one of Chicago’s brightest prospects, whipped a hard, low cross towards Miami’s near post, and Marshall was clinical in his finish.

Miami showed life, though, as they grabbed an added time consolation goal from the tournament’s top point earner: Welton. The Brazilian finished the tournament with 14 points, which included a tournament high six goals.

In many ways this match was characteristic of the brand of soccer the Fire were known for. It showed the grit and grind that so many early Chicago soccer fans have come to expect.

The Open Cup final came one week after the Fire suffered a heartbreaking loss in the MLS Cup. A loss like that would be deflating to most teams, but the Fire managed to pick themselves up again and secure some silverware.

Their quick counter-attacking play was too much for a Fusion side that struggled to maintain the ball in the middle of the park, and Bob Bradley’s team truly was the better side.

Overall, 2000 was a fun season for the Men in Red and the Chicago faithful that follow them. There were a myriad of highs, and maybe even more lows, but this was the match that defined their season.