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Sun. Dec 7th at 3:00pm EST · ESPN · UniMas · UDN · TSN1 · RDS2
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Final

Fire face Open semis hurdle

yet standing in their way is the final surviving second division side in the Charleston Battery, which once again performing a giant-killing feat to reach the semifinals of the competition. The Fire are in the final four for the fifth time, losing just once in the semis (and then never in the final). The Battery have reached the semifinal stage for the second time in club history, also going down to an MLS side five years ago.

CHICAGO FIRE:

The most successful team in U.S. Open Cup competition in MLS history, the Chicago Fire are a game away from a fourth final appearance (which they've all won) in seven tries. ... The Fire reached the semis after a 1-0 victory against the A-League Richmond Kickers in an Aug. 4 quarterfinal in Richmond. Dipsy Selolwane snapped a header of an Orlando Perez cross 11 minutes after the break for the game's only goal. ... Here's the team Dave Sarachan ran out: Henry Ring, Kelly Gray (Denny Clanton 65), C.J. Brown, Jim Curtin, Orlando Perez, Logan Pause, Chris Armas (Capt.), Andy Williams (Sumed Ibrahim 88), Nate Jaqua (Leonard Griffin 80), Damani Ralph, Dipsy Selolwane (Craig Capano 80) ... The Fire began their charge for a fourth U.S. Open Cup in club history with a difficult 2-1 victory against the Columbus Crew in the fourth round on July 20 in Columbus, a Damani Ralph golden goal sending the 2002 champion out of the competition at the first hurdle for the second season running. Frankie Hejduk headed home a Chris Wingert cross to give the home side a 27th-minute lead, but Ralph pulled the Fire level from the penalty spot in the 66th minute after Duncan Oughton hacked down Andy Williams in the box. Then in extra-time of the fractious encounter, Edson Buddle was sent off in the 97th minute for a foul on Logan Pause, and nine minutes later Ralph sent the Fire through to the quarterfinals, nodding home a lofted Chris Armas free kick. ... Only once in club history have the Fire lost an Open Cup semifinal, in 2001 when they fell on a golden goal to the Los Angeles Galaxy. They have never lost in the final ... The Fire won their third U.S. Open Cup in six tries last year, defeating the MetroStars 1-0 behind a Damani Ralph goal in the final at Giants Stadium. ... The Fire's run to the final began with a 4-1 away victory against Milwaukee Wave United (A-League) (Greg Howes 2 - Chris Armas 14, Ante Razov 34, Evan Whitfield 61, Dipsy Selolwane 80). Then in the quarterfinals, the Fire came back to claim a 2-1 victory at home against a 10-man Colorado Rapids (Beasley 44; own goal (Fraser) 53 - Spencer 11), before Chicago reached a third Open Cup final with a wild 3-2 semifinal victory at home against the Los Angeles Galaxy (DaMarcus Beasley 55, Damani Ralph 63, Ante Razov 69 - Alejandro Moreno 73, Arturo Torres 75). ... The Fire won the final in '98 thanks to the late golden goal from Frank Klopas ... The Fire also won the 2000 Open Cup, defeating Miami Fusion in the final thanks to an own goal two minutes from time. ... The Fire have been eliminated at the first hurdle twice, in 2002 by the A-League Milwaukee Rampage, and in 1999 to the Rochester Raging Rhinos. ... At the weekend in league play at The Home Depot Center, an 89th-minute goal from Carlos Ruiz saved Steve Sampson's debut from ruin, where the home side had to come back to secure a share of the points against a Chicago Fire side in a 1-1 draw. Damani Ralph gave the visitors the advantage midway through the second half, collecting a pass on the right flank after a dreadful giveaway and ripping a low angled drive through a defender's legs that settled inside Kevin Hartman's right-hand post (67). But after seemingly weathering a heavy storm over the final quarter of the match, the Fire conceded the equalizer when Cobi Jones sent Arturo Torres into the right corner, and his cross into the mixer was met by Ruiz, who saw his header just bound over the line.

CHARLESTON BATTERY:

OPEN CUP HISTORY: The Battery have reached the Open Cup semifinals for the second time in club history, making a return after getting to the final four in their first appearance in the competition where they lost 3-0 to the Colorado Rapids (Julio Dely Valdes 55, 87; Paul Bravo 82) ... That year, their run began with a 2-1 victory against the D3 Wilmington Hammerheads, before shocking D.C. United 4-3 in extra time in Charleston in the third round. The Battery then defeated the Staten Island Vipers 2-1 in an all A-League quarterfinal, before losing 3-0 to the Colorado Rapids in the semifinals at Virginia Beach. ... This is the fifth time the Battery have reached the competition proper, missing out last season after surviving A-League qualification for four consecutive years, where they took some big-time MLS scalps -- continuing that this year. ... United got their revenge in 2000 with a 2-0 victory in a second-round meeting, but the Battery returned to their giant-killing ways in 2001, defeating the MetroStars 4-1 in the second round before falling 2-1 to the New England Revolution in the round-of-16. ... In 2002, Charleston knocked off D3 Greenville Lions 3-0 in the second round, before being beaten in extra-time by the Colorado Rapids, a golden goal the only marker of the match.

2004 OPEN CUP

The Battery advanced to the Open Cup semifinals by upsetting the Rochester Raging Rhinos in an all-A-League quarterfinal on Aug. 4 in upstate New York. Gabe Valencia scored the game's only goal, beating two defenders to head home a cross after just seven minutes, the Battery then holding on to advance. ... Here's Chris Ramsey's team: Dusty Hudock, Nigel Henry, Mark Watson, Rick Titus, Henrik Jensen (Jason Kutney 80), Gabe Valencia, Justin Evans, Steve Klein, Ted Chronopoulos (Greg Simmonds 50), Paul Conway, Jesus Martinez (Chris Goos 78) ... In the round-of-16, the Battery repeated one of the more resounding upsets in Open Cup history when they knocked off the MetroStars 1-0 at home. Chris Klein scored the game's only goal when he pounded home the rebound of a free kick; Eddie Gaven saw a penalty saved late in the match. ... The Battery lost their A-League qualification series 4-2 on aggregate to the Atlanta Silverbacks, but still gained the competition itself by virtue of winning last year's A-League championship. The Silverbacks won 2-0 at home on May 8 (John Ball 67, Velko Iotov 85) before a Mac Cozier double in the return leg on May 15 secured passage to the competition itself (Cozier 43, 77 - Ted Chronopoulos 51, Greg Simmonds 69). ... In the Open Cup second round, the Battery eased past the D3 Wilmington Hammerheads 2-0 at Blackbaud Stadium behind a Paul Conway double (2, 44).

2004 A-LEAGUE

The defending A-League champion come into the game in eighth place in the nine-team Eastern Conference, with just 24 points from 27 matches, out of the hunt for a playoff place with one league match remaining. But they are riding a four-match unbeaten run, including victories in both of their matches at the weekend. ... In their last match, the Battery defeated the Virginia Beach Mariners 1-0 at home on Aug. 21, the lone goal a Paul Conway penalty in the 70th minute, two nights after defeating the Mariners 2-1 away. ... Here's the team Ramsey ran out: Chris Doyle, Steve Klein, Mark Watson, Rick Titus, Nick Downing, Chris Goos, Justin Evans (Kevin Jackson 71), Henrik Jensen (Jason Kutney 61), Josh Smith (Jesus Martinez 78), Paul Conway (Nigel Henry 87), Greg Simmonds (Caleb Norkus 73) ... Former D.C. United forward Greg Simmonds leads the Battery with 5 goals, 2 assists, while long-time MLS campaigner Ted Chronopoulos has 3 goals, 2 assists.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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