US Open Cup: Chicago Fire have edge in titles, but have to battle history in semifinal vs. Seattle
Given the “massive test” that awaits the Chicago Fire in their US Open Cup semifinal clash at the Seattle Sounders on Wednesday evening (10:30 pm ET, stream on SoundersFC.com), head coach Frank Yallop will be putting out a “team to win” against MLS’s current top team.
The Fire have a storied past with the Open Cup, with four victories and two final appearances placing them atop the current MLS pile, with the Sounders just one title behind them with three wins.
With the prospect of a final showdown with the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park on Sept. 16 awaiting the victor, Yallop will be taking nothing for granted at the Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, Wash.
“It’s a tough one because it’s a semifinal of a cup and we’ve got a massive game at the weekend [at Montreal], but I think we’ve got to take each game as it comes along,” Yallop told reporters on a conference call from Seattle on Tuesday. “I’m putting out my team to win tomorrow night, so it won’t be weakened for sure.”
That said, the Fire must plan without suspended top scorer Mike Magee following his sending off in the 3-1 quarterfinal win over the Atlanta Silverbacks, and with a crucial regular-season game at the Montreal Impact coming up on Saturday (6:30 pm ET, MLS Live, TSN2/RDS in Canada), one or two changes may be forced upon him.
“These next two games are massive,” Yallop insisted. “We need to think about changing a few guys, but we’re playing against a team who are going to be getting after us. They’re at home, they’re a good team, they’re in the semi-final of the cup as well, they’re top of their division and they’re flying. It’s a massive test for us but I’m really excited about this game.”
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The record books show that history is against the Fire against the Sounders, who have enjoyed remarkable success against the Men in Red in Seattle. The Sounders boast an 8-0-3 home record against the Fire in all competitions since their MLS arrival in 2009.
The Fire fell to a 3-2 home defeat to the Sounders at Toyota Park just before the World Cup break, but their impressive performance in that loss will give Yallop and his charges room for optimism against Sigi Schmid’s side.
"They're obviously going to be favorites because they're at home and they're a good side," Yallop added. “But we're going in here feeling very confident that we can come out with a victory.
"There's no other way of doing it. And I think I've seen a difference in our mentality since the San Jose debacle. I think it woke us all up, and it woke me up and it woke up the team."