Fire out of USOC after PK loss to FC Cincinnati

FC Cincinnati goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt turned in a remarkable performance in his club's victory over the Fire in front of the second largest crowd in US Open Cup history. 32,287 fans saw Hildebrandt come up big at least twice in the first half, several times in the second half, and again in extra time before denying Nemanja Nikolic, Arturo Alvarez, and Juninho on penalty kicks.

Fire 'keeper Matt Lampson came through with several big stops of his own but couldn't match Hildebrandt's heroics in PK's after a scoreless first 120 minutes of play. Chicago failed to convert on several chances in the early going while they looked like the better team and the missed opportunities came back to haunt them. Only Schweinsteiger was able to score during the penalty session while Atlanta converted three times in four tries.

Without Dax McCarty and David Accam, the Fire still fielded a strong squad that should have been able to deal with Cincinnati but the beauty of tournament play is the possibility that underdogs can win one-off games. Those underdogs can be particularly dangerous at home with a goalkeeper at the top of his game. That's exactly what happened in this match, although it will bear watching how teams defend the Fire over the next two games and possibly more without two key players in the line-up. Orlando City frustrated the Fire in a 0-0 draw a few weeks ago without McCarty, and there will be more challenges ahead in July.

The Fire's first chance at hardware this season is now by the boards but that doesn't mean that the progress made over the first 17 games of the MLS season is void. This match is undoubtedly a disappointment but leadership on the squad should be able to help them bounce back from it.

Fire line-up

GK Lampson

DEF Conner (Solignac 45'), Kappelhof, Campbell, Vincent

MID Schweinsteiger, Polster, de Leeuw (Johnson 102'), Juninho, Alvarez

F Nikolic

Stats

Shots: Chicago 26 Cincinnati 20

On target: Chicago 10 Cincinnati 7

Possession: Chicago 70-30

Passing: Chicago 85% Cincinnati 68%

Filed under: 2017 US Open Cup

Tags: Chicago Fire

Comments

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  • It really hurts to see Dax miss so many games for USMNT duties when Arena doesn't even put him on the pitch.

  • In reply to Arklow:

    Agreed on that point, but I have a feeling Gold Cup will be different. He left a lot of regulars at home. I think we see Dax on the field Saturday against Ghana.

  • I would have liked to see Johnson be brought on much earlier then the 102nd minute. Maybe the 80th. With an unused sub, you have to wonder if maybe Pauno could have made better use of his bench to change the dynamic of the game.

  • In reply to edubs:

    Also, I'm impressed at the improvement of Lampson from last year to now. Last year he couldn't handle 1v1 situations to save his life. He would look scared, couldn't control his box. Just atrocious. Last night he had a big night when he needed to, where last year he would have choked. I'm glad that he's made such a huge turnaround. I'm starting to have some confidence in him.

  • In reply to edubs:

    And yet was still outplayed by a USL keeper...

  • In reply to AJties:

    Actually, my thoughts were that those PKs they Niko, Arturo and Junino took were really bad. I heard that on average, 1 in 4 or 1 in 5 PKs are stopped by the goalie and they were the exact opposite. I get that they were gassed, but it was still bad pk taking.

    Interesting how when Dax isn't in the lineup, the dynamic in their play is very noticeable. I saw a lot of instances of open spaces that he would have filled.

    As far as game play last night, Cincy had more hunger. They were more aggressive on the ball. They earned what they got.

    Fatigue plus no Dax, the best to hope for Vancouver is a tie. In my eyes, anyway.

  • In reply to BrianC.:

    Regardless of how poorly the fire took their kicks, Lampson didnt save a PK. Fire takers have no affect on that. I agree lampson hasnt been the disaster he was last year, but he's not a starting keeper imo. The fire need to upgrade the position. Handling of SJ was this administration's biggest mistake imo. They have made a lot of great moves, but none of the good moves involve a GK

  • In reply to AJties:

    I would disagree that Lampson's performance on Wednesday isn't starter keeper quality. He did everything he was asked for and then some. Blaming the PK loss on him is ridiculous. Hildebrand stopped 3/4 PKs which is pretty rare in a shootout. Any keeper will tell you that guessing correctly is a crap shoot. To expect Lampson to save 3 well taken PKs just because Hildebrand stopped 3 poorly taken PKs is silly.

    Since Lampson has taken over from Bava in goal this year he has been solid. He's come up big when he has needed to. Sure there have been a lot of games where the defense has kept him from needing to make big saves, but when he has been needed his positioning is worlds better then it was last year, his distribution has been much better, his decision making about when to come out and clear the ball versus stay and defend has been much better. Since he came back into goal I've been watching him every game to see the huge gaffes that he was making last year. I have yet to see any of those issues appear yet. Don't get me wrong, the improved defense has helped a lot. Harrington not seeing the field anymore is a HUGE improvement. But even when he has been needed, I've been happy with his play and feel that he has been performing as a MLS caliber GK this year.

  • Here's my latest at theAthletic.com
    More on the McCarty trade, Schweinsteiger's deal, the possibility of Blasczcykowski, the hot start, and the past offseason.

    https://theathletic.com/71445/2017/06/29/chicagos-summer-team-how-the-fire-transformed-from-mls-joke-to-title-contender/

    They're a subscription site, but very affordable.

  • fb_avatar

    I think that the shit turf field did us harm. I don't know how much time we had to acclimate to it. All our passes had too much on them all night. You could see all the seams! On grass they would have been better. Also I wouldn't have risked Bastian on it at all. Their keeper was out of his mind!
    Oh well, now we can concentrate on the league.

  • Why are strikers some of the worst penalty takers? A strong hit and it doesn't matter if he guesses right.

  • Attendance note and general rant:
    The Fire also played in the USOC game with the highest-ever attendance in the 2011 Final vs. Seattle (35,615).

    In fact, based on attendance alone, you can say that the Fire revived the Cup when they entered the tournament based on final attendance (figures courtesy of thecup.us). The highest recorded attendance at a final was 20,000 in 1929 in the second leg of the Hakoah All-Stars (NY) vs Madison Kennell Club (St. Louis) final in Brooklyn(the 1st leg drew 18,000 in StL), and the lowest recorded attendance at a final was 400 in 1994. Even after MLS teams started entering the tournament, final attendance didn't break 4 digits until the Fire drew 18,615 in 1998. It dipped to below 5,000 in '99 before rising to 19,146 in the 2000 final. Apparently even those attendances in Chicago didn't wake US Soccer up to the possibilities of the tournament until the last few years... they treat it as an ugly stepchild to the USMNT and USWNT which they treat like cash cows (especially the WNT).

    Aside from the success the Fire have had in the tournament, the attendance should be a point of pride for Chicago fans, in addition to the fact that numerous Chicago teams have made it to the final and a significant number have won the trophy, not least of which is the Fire.

    I'm very disappointed that we dropped this game to a USL side, especially Cincinnati (I'm from Cleveland and let's just say there's no love lost between the two). I don't think the turf is an excuse, and even with Hildebrandt's heroics, this makes me wonder about our ability to execute and especially finish on the road. It's bulls**t that we could not put this game away. We beat New England on their own crap turf not two weeks ago. There is no way this should have gone to PKs.

  • In reply to Modibo:

    I mean...you're not wrong. But that is the beauty/frustration of the USOC and any other single elimination tournament (e.g., March Madness); these tourneys are made for upsets like this where the little team only needs one shot even if the big team would win the other 9 times out of 10.

  • In reply to Modibo:

    First,
    I am an FC Cincinnati fan and wish you guys well the rest of the season. Amazing to see Basti live. Can't imagine playing against a German National team where he was maybe the 3rd or 4th best on the squad.

    Second, could the fact of the attendance and the Fire be coincidence based upon the coin flip determining at what facility the game is played? We drew over 31,000 for the Crew game and less than 1000 were Crew fans. I would guess the same figure applied to the Fire fans at Nippert. If you had to play at Louisville FC, the attendance would have been about 10,000 since that is all the stadium holds.
    Perhaps FC Cincinnati is responsible for the interest in the Open Cup given that two of the top four attendances were at our stadium. It wasn't until we beat the Crew before a huge crowd that ESPN became interested in broadcasting the Fire game.

    Also, FC Cincinnati played a "B+" squad. Quinn, Stevenson, Dacres (recently), Dominguez, and Josu are not regular starters, plus no Djiby. You could clearly see the difference Andrew, Jimmy, and Corbin made when they came on.

  • In reply to Mitch Says No:

    Mitch, congratulations on the win. That was an awesome game! Very entertaining with a lot of drama. Good luck the rest of the way.

  • In reply to go fire:

    Thank you. My daughter and I attended a Fire game last summer when we were looking at schools up there. Stadium was pretty nice once we figured out how to get there! Didn't take expressway. Can't wait for FC to get into the MLS but if not maybe an annual scrimmage would be nice. Used to go up to spend the weekend watching Reds v Cubs and would much rather do it for a soccer match, even a pre-season one. Good luck Fire FC.

  • In reply to Mitch Says No:

    Nice to see Austin Berry playing back in the states at CB. Always thought he got a raw deal from the Fire's color man.

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