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.
DEF Conner (Solignac 45'), Kappelhof, Campbell, Vincent
MID Schweinsteiger, Polster, de Leeuw (Johnson 102'), Juninho, Alvarez
Shots: Chicago 26 Cincinnati 20
On target: Chicago 10 Cincinnati 7
Possession: Chicago 70-30
Passing: Chicago 85% Cincinnati 68%