The Chicago Fire defeated Columbus Crew SC on Tuesday night at Toyota Park in their round of sixteen game of the U.S. Open Cup. The Fire came into this match off a close win against the Indy Eleven that went into penalty kicks, while Columbus Crew SC cruised in after a 4-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
The Fire have advanced to the semifinals in the last four out of five U.S. Open Cup tournaments, but haven’t moved to the finals since 2011. The confidence that Chicago displayed Tuesday night gives the impression that this year might be the year for them.
“Today’s game was very important step forward in our quest for Open Cup, and we believe that we are on the good track for that,” said an optimistic Veljko Paunovic, head coach of the Fire.
The Serbian coach has been with the Men in Red since late 2015, and after having led the Serbia to the U-20 World Cup Championship, is ready to dominate the Open Cup and hopefully get a win in the quarterfinals against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.
The first half was filled with action, leaving Chicago with a 2-0 at half. David Accam was able to set the tone of the game with a goal in the seventh minute assisted by John Goossens, who has just come off of a knee injury. Despite this, Goossens was calm and comfortable on the ball as described by Paunovic and was providing great through balls and facilitating great scoring opportunities throughout the first half.
The second goal came in the 30th minute, with fantastic service from Chicago’s Rodrigo Ramos that was met by a strong volley from Accam making it nearly impossible for Columbus keeper Brad Stuver to stop.
David Accam, age 25, appeared in 24 MLS matches last year, starting 21 of them. He is a playmaker with speed that keeps him on the radar of other teams.
“[Accam is] dangerous, and you know that he’s going to get some opportunities and you try to limit that,” added Crew SC Head Coach and Sporting Director Gregg Berhalter. “Two goals, it looks like he had a great game, but I think my guys did a decent job.”
Crew SC were only able to find their way onto the scoreboard after a penalty was called in the Chicago box, allowing Ethan Finlay of Columbus to bring back some momentum to the game with his goal. Chicago responded to this by condensing their formation and creating an extremely tough defense for Crew SC to try to contend with. Pressure ran high in the last 30 minutes of the game, with Columbus out-shooting the Fire ten to four – the problem being that only one of those ten shots were on goal.
Leaving this game, Berhalter was disappointed that they will not have the opportunity to claim the Open Cup title. However, he is setting his sights on the rest of the season, and working on getting his team to move up in the standings and show how good they have truly become.
An unfortunate loss for Columbus proved to be extremely motivating for Chicago. The Fire will move to the quarterfinals against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, a match scheduled for Toyota Park on July 20th at 7:30 pm.