Eastern heavyweights battle in Mass.
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (MLS) v CHICAGO FIRE (MLS)
Lusitano Stadium, Ludlow, Mass.; 7:30 p.m. ET
The Chicago Fire return to Western Massachusetts on Wednesday just three weeks after getting their bid for a fourth U.S. Open Cup off to a good start, but this time with much tougher opposition in the New England Revolution. The Fire came back to claim a 3-1 win against the Western Mass Pioneers in the third round, starting the competition a round early after not reaching the playoffs last year despite a fourth Open Cup Final appearance in seven years. The 2001 Open Cup Finalist, the Revolution have also fallen at the first hurdle three of their five times in the competition - all to lower-division competition.
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
IN THE U.S. OPEN CUP: The Revolution have entered the competition five times - and on three occasions have been dumped out at the first hurdle by lower-division competition. In 1997, the Revolution lost 4-3 away to A-League Long Island Roughriders, then a Chad Schomaker goal literally on full time gave Mid-Michigan Bucks a famous third-round victory in 2000. Last year, they lost to the Rochester Raging Rhinos on penalties after a 1-1 draw in the fourth round. ... The Revolution reached the Open Cup Final in 2001, falling to the Los Angeles Galaxy 2-1 in extra-time - a year before the same result would occur in the MLS Cup Final. Wolde Harris gave New England the lead on 30 minutes, but goals from Ezra Hendrickson (70) and Dan Califf (92) gave Los Angeles the trophy. The Revs began their run to the final with a 7-1 victory against PDL (fourth division) Mid-Michigan Bucks, then defeated Charleston Battery (A-League) 2-1, before knocking off Columbus Crew 2-1 in the quarterfinals and D.C. United 2-0 in the semifinals.
LAST YEAR: The Rochester Raging Rhinos revisited their MLS giant-killing days, knocking off the New England Revolution on penalties in the fourth round. Pat Noonan put the Revs in front in the seventh minute, but Kirk Wilson drew the game level 16 minutes into the second half. Rochester played at 10 men for the final 48 minutes of regulation and extra time when Bill Sedgewick was booked a second time. Once the game went to penalties, Rochester goalkeeper Theo Zagar became the star, stopping two New England shots from Jay Heaps and Clint Dempsey, allowing Carlos Mendez to send the Rhinos to the quarterfinals with his penalty.
IN THE OPEN CUP
The Chicago Fire are the most successful MLS team in the history of the USA's oldest competition. They've won the title three times in the seven years of their existence - in their inaugural year when they did the domestic double (2-1 aet v Columbus Crew), in 2000 when they defeated Miami Fusion 2-1, and in 2003 when they defeated the MetroStars 1-0. A year ago they lost for the first time in the Open Cup Final, falling to a golden goal from the Kansas City Wizards. Twice the Fire have been dumped out at the first hurdle by lower-level competition - both times A-League clubs: in 1999 (0-1 to Rochester Raging Rhinos) and 2002 (0-1 to Milwaukee Rampage).
The Fire started their run to the final last year with a difficult 2-1 victory away to the Columbus Crew, getting a Damani Ralph golden goal for the winner. They defeated the A-League Richmond Kickers 1-0 in the quarterfinals behind a Dipsy Selolwane header, then in the semifinals another Selolwane goal in extra time sent them through to the final. There Igor Simutenkov's golden goal winner snapped the spell of Fire appearances in the Open Cup Final.
THIS YEAR: On July 12, the Fire survived a tricky tie in the third round of U.S. Open Cup, allowing an early goal to USL Second Division (third tier) Western Mass Pioneers, but coming back to claim a 3-1 victory at Lusitano Stadium in Ludlow, Mass. Will John scored two goals (16, 47+) to cancel out a Neil Krause strike after just five minutes, and also laid on a goal for Lubos Reiter (24). ... Here's Sarachan's team (4-4-2): Zach Thornton, Jack Stewart, Jim Curtin, C.J. Brown (Jared Montz 76), Leonard Griffin, Will John, Scott Buete, Jesse Marsch (Will Johnson 64), Justin Mapp (Chad Barrett 67), Andy Herron, Lubos Reiter
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