Two wins away from a trophy and CONCACAF Champions League play in 2014.
The Fire advanced to the US Open Cup semi-finals by defeating USL-Pro side Orlando City SC 5-1. Strong performances from Sean Johnson, Chris Rolfe, Patrick Nyarko, and Dilly Duka pushed the Fire past the giant-slaying underdog darlings of this year's tournament.
Johnson kept Orlando City from making the game closer and allowed Chicago's offense to take control with several outstanding saves in the second half. The final score line may be slightly misleading because the Lions actually tied the match at one apiece in the 51st minute when the Fire defense let up after a short corner and Rob Valentino tapped in a pass beating a stationary Alex to the near post.
Chris Rolfe scored twice and looked more like the player that scored eight goals for the Fire last season. If Rolfe can get his game going in MLS play the second half of the season should be a good one for Chicago. Another player that seems to be gaining confidence with each passing week is Dilly Duka. Another strong outing from the left midfielder provides high hopes that he has found his groove. A combination of Duka and Rolfe continuing to play at a high level in tandem with Patrick Nyarko and Mike Magee makes a playoff run in league play entirely possible.
Magee scored the Fire's fourth goal of the night and has now scored a goal in seven consecutive appearances for the club. Patrick Nyarko provided the game winner when he answered the Lions' tally eight minutes after they tied the match. Nyarko took the ball almost from midfield and beat several defenders on his way up the left side of the field to finish with a fantastic misdirection to his left and an even better shot placement to beat the keeper. (Catch postgame comments from Nyarko and Rolfe at the Fire Confidential Facebook page)
Now on an eight game unbeaten run in all competitions, the Fire are idle this weekend but face San Jose at Toyota Park next Wednesday. They'll face DC United in the semi-final in Bridgeview on August 7. Portland and Real Salt Lake are the finalists on the other side of the bracket.
The Fire now have a legitimate chance of winning a trophy in 2013. Two wins stand in the way of a record tying fifth US Open Cup championship and a ticket to participate in next year's CONCACAF Champions League. After an awful start, the rest of the summer is going to get very interesting.
Fire Line Up
D Anibaba, Berry, Soumare, Segares
M Nyarko (Lindpere 66'), Alex (Paladini 54'), Larentowicz, Duka
F Rolfe (Santos 80'), Magee
CHI-Rolfe (Duka) 6'
OCSC - Valentino (unassisted) 51'
CHI - Nyarko (unassisted) 59'
CHI - Rolfe (Larentowicz) 64'
CHI - Magee (Santos) 83'
CHI - Lindpere (Duka) 90"