On Fire: Chicago back in USOC final
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — The Chicago Fire are finally back in a US Open Cup final.
The so-called “Kings of the Cup” beat the USL-Pro Richmond Kickers 2-1 in Tuesday night’s Open Cup semifinal at Toyota Park, advancing to their sixth USOC title game and their first since 2006.
Here are three other storylines from the match:
Oduro on fire
Forward Dominic Oduro has scored some good goals in his recent hot streak, but none have been anywhere near as pretty as his beautiful strike Tuesday night.
Oduro put the Fire up 2-0 in the 61st minute, running onto forward Patrick Nyarko’s through ball on the left wing before cutting in on his right foot and curling a gorgeously shaped shot into the right upper 90 from 20 yards out. It was his third goal in as many games.
“I don’t even know who passed me the ball,” Oduro said with a laugh. “But it was a great ball on the sideline. I took the defender on and he just committed himself on one side I took it to the other side, saw the net and tried to whip the ball in and it went in.”
The goal also made quite the impression on Chicago interim head coach Frank Klopas, who has been working with Oduro on finishing all season long.
“It was a fantastic goal,” Klopas said. “I thought it was a world class goal. He just bent it upper 90, it was just fantastic. He’s been really super for us and I know that he’s going to continue to develop and get better and score more goals. He’s been fantastic.”
Grazzini injured, expects to be back for San Jose
Midfielder Sebastián Grazzini came off at halftime of Tuesday’s game with an injured hamstring. The Argentine playmaker, who set up and scored the Fire’s first half penalty kick, told reporters after the match that he should be back in plenty of time for Chicago’s next game, a Sept. 10 league clash at San Jose.
“I had a little bit of a knock on my ankle from the last match so tonight I overcompensated with my other leg and the last play of the first half I felt it tighten up a little,” Grazzini said through a translator. “But I have 10 days to recuperate so I think I will be okay.”
Grazzini has been great since signing with the Fire in mid-July, scoring three goals and providing two assists in seven games across all competitions.
Confidence at a new high
Tuesday’s win was the third in a row across all competitions for the surging Fire, who find themselves believing a little bit more with every victory. Chicago are now unbeaten in their last five games, a stretch that’s put them in the Open Cup final and just five points out of the playoffs.
“I think our confidence is high,” Nyarko said. “After the first win, we rode that confidence to the second one, then we rode that confidence to the third one. Now we know we can win games however close or not close they are. Every guy, no matter who is hurt and who replaces them, has the same form of confidence to jump right in and help the team progress. I think we need to feed off of this and carry it into the remainder of the games.”
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.