US Open Cup: Chicago Fire - Fort Lauderdale Strikers
Ahead of their home game with Columbus Crew in the previous round ,I spoke about how seriously Chicago Fire have always taken the US Open Cup...........
"We have a full midweek round in Brazil starting tomorrow and are at the last 16 stage of the US Open Cup, with two of those matches being played today, the rest on Wednesday. The Chicago Fire- Columbus Crew game being played tonight is not without interest, the host have always treated the competition with respect and were close to full strength against NASL opponents in the last round, whilst Crew made wholesale changes. Teams are playing things a little closer to their chest this time round, but visiting head coach Gregg Berhalter did at least state that back up goalkeeper Brad Stuver would start in all Open Cup games, they have not got past this round in six attempts, are 0-5 v Fire in this competition losing twice here in cup play in the last three years (once in extra time) and it is easy to see Chicago taking this the more seriously of the two, playing in front of their own supporters.
Fire head coach Veljko Paunovic said "This competition is very important. "We will go with our best possible team to start with the guys we believe can win the game." He then implied that the visitors were expected to rotate to some degree: " We want to stop them from progressing out of the back where they have quality players. "They have a very defined style and they perform very well. " We obviously, have to wait to see who is going to play but we know that they're style is consistent and they don't change even when the line-up changes."
On everything we know historically about how these two clubs approach US Open Cup play, that sounds about right and we can expect Fire to field the stronger team. However, and you probably knew that there was going to be a caveat of some sorts, Fire have a home MLS game on Friday and will be mindful of that, although Paunovic said he would not think about the visit of Earthquakes until tomorrow.
Fire are four time US Open Cup champions (but not for a decade) and have made it through to the semis in each of the last three years and they can edge this and continue their fine record in the competition."
They won that 2-1 after opening up an early 2-0 lead and the Crew goal came late, via a wrongly awarded spot kick and after Fire , who will tonight be looking to reach the last four for the fourth straight year, took off their two main offensive threats at around the hour mark.
Tonight they are three wins away from some silverware and a Champions League spot and that would salvage the campaign and give them something to build on for next season. FTL are the last NASL team left in the competition and Fire could not have asked for a better draw, with the lower league team struggling and having really ridden their luck to reach this stage (all three wins coming after extra time or penalties).
There is talk of money problems at Strikers, recent salaries have been paid late and are said (unofficially) to be behind the departures of Adrianinho and Matheus Carvalho, which, with the suspension to Maicon Santo, means that FTL have only one player available with more than one goal to his name (he has two !) and arrive with no target man and a midfielder in the "striker" position. They have had quite a lot of attempts on goal this season, but most from distance, a low on target percentage and most of those achieved by players who will not be in action this evening and against a superior opponent, who is hugely motivated to win. Fire have a league game on Saturday, so will want to avoid extra time and another early two goal lead will surely be their target.
Chicago Fire -1 ball 2.03 asian line/Sportmarket
from Clubgowi newsletter