Fire savor USOC win, regardless of strength of opponents

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — Their opponents didn’t have their big names, their head coach or a full roster, but that doesn’t mean that the Chicago Fire aren’t savoring Tuesday night’s 4-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls at Toyota Park in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup quarterfinals.

“I just want to congratulate my team and players,” Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas said after the match. “Games like this are never easy and I think it was important, more than anything, the attitude we came out with.

“We had a tough loss in LA [on Saturday] and a long flight back [Sunday]. Everyone knew the importance of this game for us and what the goal is and I give a lot of credit to the players who fought hard, played good soccer, created opportunities and it was good to get the goals for a good victory.”

The Fire said it wasn’t important that the win came against a reserve-heavy Red Bulls squad, only that they’re moving on.

“It doesn’t matter who you put on the field,” said Fire attacker Dominic Oduro, who opened the scoring in the seventh minute. “You’re just representing your team. That’s what we’re doing and I think that’s what they did ... and regardless of whoever they brought out there, we played against the New York Red Bulls. We didn’t play against a reserve team, we played against New York and we came out victorious and that’s all that matters.”

The win advances Chicago to the USOC semifinals (which will be played on Aug. 30) for the first time since 2006, when the four-time Open Cup champions last won the tournament. The Fire are thrilled to be just two steps away from raising a trophy, which would be their first since that 2006 Open Cup triumph and put them in the qualifying stages of the 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions League.  

“It’s pretty big,” Fire defender Gonzalo Segares said of advancing. “[A lot of teams] don’t take the Open Cup seriously, but we always do. It’s a very important trophy, it gives us a chance to get into the CONCACAF Champions League and that’s a pretty big tournament internationally. It’s always good to be competing on that level.”

Not that Chicago are losing sight of the short-term. They currently sit in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, four points out of the playoffs, and they’re hoping that some of Tuesday’s momentum will carry over to Saturday’s home match against Portland.

“I thought we did well out there,” Oduro said. “We controlled the whole game and we were able to put some balls in the net. I think that gave us more confidence to go into the semifinals and hopefully on Saturday against Portland.

“It’s all about confidence and I think this win is more like a paving thing for us. I think it’s good for the team, everybody’s excited, everybody’s motivated and we’re ready to go on Saturday.”

Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at sam.h.stejskal@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.