KANSAS CITY WIZARDS v CHICAGO FIRE
Sept. 22, 2004; Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.
It's another classic cup final in the 91st edition of the USA's longest-running soccer competition, the holders and current Open Cup dynasty taking on a first-time finalist. The Chicago Fire haven't lost in their last seven Open Cup matches, including claiming their third title in the competition on away soil last year when they knocked off the MetroStars at Giants Stadium. Just as the Fire's opponents were last year, it's the first-ever appearance in an Open Cup Final for the Kansas City Wizards, as they chase the Dewar Trophy in the trophy now named for their investor/operator, Lamar Hunt. But it's not the first meeting for the two teams in a championship match: The Wizards captured their first major honor when they knocked off the Fire 1-0 in the 2000 MLS Cup Final. The clubs are the last two standing from a field of 163 teams that began in what is among the oldest cup competitions in the world since it was first played in 1914.
U.S. OPEN CUP HISTORY
This is the first time a team from the city of Kansas City has played for the U.S. Open Cup. Still, there is a rich history of Open Cup success from the state of Missouri - all of it from the other side of the Show Me State and the city of St. Louis.
Ben Miller FC became the first non-East Coast team to claim the cup in 1920 when they won, Scullin Steel of St. Louis then claiming the championship two years later in the middle of their three consecutive final appearances (their lone victory).
St. Louis clubs captured the Dewar Trophy in 1933 (Stix, Baer and Fuller) and 1935 (Central Breweries FC) - led by 1934 U.S. World Cup stars Billy Gonsalves, Werner Nilsen and Bill McLean, and then again when Simpkins Ford won in 1948 and 1950 led by Charles Colombo, Gino Pariani, Frank Borghi, and Frank Wallace, all part of the 1950 World Cup that shocked England in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
St. Louis teams have claimed the U.S. Open Cup three other time - Kutis SC doing the deed in 1957, then almost 30 years later in 1986, then Busch SC in 1988.
Chicago clubs have won the Open Cup Final on eight occasions, including the three victories by Chicago Fire (1998, 2000, 2003). Second City teams have been on the short end on 12 occasions, last in 1984.
The Fire became the second Chicago team to claim multiple Open Cup championships when they knocked off the Miami Fusion at Soldier Field in 2000. Sparta A.B.A. won the Cup in 1938 and 1940 (declared co-champions with Baltimore SC in 1940).
The Chicago Vikings won in 1947 and Chicago Falcons in 1953, then after five consecutive losing trips for Chicago clubs, A.A.C. Eagles brought the Dewar Trophy back to the Windy City in 1990, the last Chicago victory before the Fire's inaugural season.
This is the seventh time in MLS history that Major League Soccer clubs have met in the Open Cup Final, including the last four years. The only times that hasn't happened since the league's formation in 1996 were in the first (D.C. United 3, Rochester Raging Rhinos 0), and in 1999 (Rochester Rhinos 2, Colorado Rapids 0).
KANSAS CITY WIZARDS
This is the first time the Wizards have ever appeared in the U.S. Open Cup Final, as they chase their second cup in club history. In 2000, a Miklos Molnar goal gave them a 1-0 victory against the Fire in the MLS Cup Final at RFK Stadium in Washington.
The Wizards advanced to the Open Cup Final on a 1-0 victory against the San Jose Earthquakes on Aug. 24 in Overland Park, Kan. as Igor Simutenkov converted a penalty literally on the stroke of halftime. Josh Wolff earned the spot kick as he strove to skip through a crowded penalty area, Quakes defender Ryan Cochrane pulling down the U.S. international as referee Kevin Terry eventually pointed to the spot.
Here's Bob Gansler's team on the night: Bo Oshoniyi, Taylor Graham, Jimmy Conrad, Nick Garcia, Jose Burciaga Jr., Igor Simutenkov (Preki 46) (Justin Detter 80), Diego Gutierrez, Kerry Zavagnin, Alex Zotinca, Josh Wolff (Jack Jewsbury 74), Davy Arnaud
Kansas City advanced to the semifinals for the second time in three seasons when they hammered the Dallas Burn 4-0 in the quarterfinals on Aug. 4 in Overland Park, Kan. Chris Klein's 52nd-minute started a blitz over the final 40 minutes that also saw goals from Davy Arnaud (57), Justin Detter (73) and Alex Zotinca (88).
On July 20, the Wizards passed their first test in the U.S. Open Cup for just the third time in eight appearances, hitting back with two goals in two minutes early in the second half to ease past A-League side Atlanta Silverbacks 4-1 in Clarkston, Ga. Davy Arnaud hit for the first of his two goals in the 12th minute, before former MLS MVP Alex Pineda Chacon hammered a free kick through the wall to level terms (40). But after the break, Arnaud tapped home a loose ball from a corner kick (52), then two minutes later, Francisco Gomez hit a wicked first-time volley of an Arnaud cross to double the Wizards lead. Diego Gutierrez then finished off the match in the 81st minute when he rocketed home a shot from inside the area.
The quarterfinal victory was the first time in four tries that the Wizards defeated an MLS opponent in MLS Cup play. They lost 3-2 to the Colorado Rapids in their first Open Cup match in 1996, also losing in 2001 to Chicago Fire in the third round, and in 2002 in the semifinals to Columbus Crew. A year ago, the Colorado Rapids claimed a 3-2 victory in Aurora, Colo. in the third round (Igor Simutenkov 10, 48 pen - John Spencer 39 pen, 67; Henderson 58).
It took five tries for Kansas City to record their first victory in Open Cup play. The Wizards came into the competition at the quarterfinals in 1996, but lost to Rapids. After the '96 loss, Wizards lost to lower division competition in 1997 (1-2 to San Francisco Bay Seals, D3), 1998 (1-3 to Nashville Metros, A-League) and 2000 (on penalties to Chicago Sockers, PDL).
Kansas City's previous best success in the Open Cup came in 2002, when they defeated the Rochester Rhinos away in the third round in a stunning comeback, (Suarez 5, Wilson 63 - Fabbro 86, Simutenkov 90, Brown 105). They then defeated Milwaukee (A-League) 2-0 in the quarterfinals before falling to Columbus Crew 3-2 through a golden goal (Buddle 76; Perez 92+, 108 - McCarty og 2; Brown 62).
IN THE LEAGUE
The Wizards own the leadership in the Western Conference and in the race for the Supporters Shield, awarded to the club with the best record in the MLS regular season, now with 41 points from 26 matches on the campaign, two ahead of the Colorado Rapids.
In their last match at the weekend, they rebounded from an earlier league loss to the San Jose Earthquakes on their home ground, knocking off the defending MLS champion 1-0 at Arrowhead Stadium.
Diego Gutierrez scored a remarkable goal seven minutes from time for the match-winner. He started the play with a pass from well inside his own half, finding Davy Arnaud on the left touchline, who weaved his way forward before sliding a small square pass inside the restraining arc that Gutierrez sidefooted home past Quakes 'keeper Pat Onstad and off the inside of his left-hand post.
The Wizards were saved in the first half in a wild sequence that saw Kerry Zavagnin twice clear balls off the line in short order from Troy Dayak, first turning aside his sharp downward header on a corner, then parrying the rebound stabbed goalward.
Here's the team Gansler ran out (4-4-2): Bo Oshoniyi - Taylor Graham (Francisco Gomez 78), Jimmy Conrad, Nick Garcia, Jose Burciaga Jr. - Jack Jewsbury, Kerry Zavagnin, Alex Zotinca, Diego Gutierrez - Josh Wolff (Justin Detter 90), Davy Arnaud
The most successful team in U.S. Open Cup competition in MLS history, the Chicago Fire are appearing in their fourth final appearance (which they've all won) in seven tries.
The Fire reached the final when they survived a valiant effort from the A-League Charleston Battery to advance 1-0 in a semifinal decided by a Dipsy Selolwane golden goal on Aug. 25 at Benedetti-Wehrli (formerly Cardinal) Stadium in Naperville, Ill.
In a match delayed by 1½ hours at halftime due to a violent thunderstorm, the Botswanan international sent the Fire through when he headed home an Orlando Perez cross in the 107th minute - the same combination that gave Chicago their quarterfinal victory against the A-League Richmond Kickers.
Here's Dave Sarachan's team: Henry Ring, Evan Whitfield (Craig Capano 107), C.J. Brown, Jim Curtin, Orlando Perez, Andy Williams, Kelly Gray, Logan Pause, Justin Mapp, Damani Ralph, Nate Jaqua (Dipsy Selolwane 79).
The Fire won that quarterfinal against Richmond 1-0 on Aug. 4 in Richmond. Selolwane snapped home a header of a Perez cross 11 minutes after the break for the game's only goal.
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.
The Fire have never lost when they've reached the Open Cup Final, defeating the MetroStars 1-0 at Giants Stadium last year. 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.
A Damani Ralph goal gave the Fire the Dewar Trophy last year on a cold Oct. 15 night in The Meadowlands. Ralph swept home an Evan Whitfield crossing pass cut back from the right flank for the only marker.
Here's Sarachan's cup final team (3-4-1-2): Zach Thornton - Kelly Gray, Jim Curtin, Carlos Bocanegra - Evan Whitfield, Chris Armas, Jesse Marsch, Orlando Perez (Andy Williams 66) - DaMarcus Beasley - Damani Ralph, Ante Razov.
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.
IN THE LEAGUE
The Fire don't come into the final in the best form, putting their playoff hopes in peril at the weekend with a 3-1 loss to D.C. United at RFK Stadium. The Fire are now in 29 points from 26 matches, just two ahead of last-place New England Revolution.
Christian Gomez scored his first MLS goal, finishing off a wonderful flowing movement with a curling shot over Henry Ring to give United the lead on eight minutes, then Alecko Eskandarian doubled it when he blazed home an angled shot after a 1-2 on a corner kick (20), the first time in more than two seasons United has scored on a corner.
The lead could have been even bigger, but Ring turned aside a Moreno penalty in the 28th minute, but Moreno still played provider for the third time on the night (and sixth United goal in succession) when he put Ben Olsen through on the left, Olsen's sharply-angled effort after rounding Ring just helped over the line by Fire defender C.J. Brown (40).
The Fire then grabbed a late consolation effort in second-half stoppage time as Andy Williams converted from the penalty spot after Mike Petke was ruled to have handled a strange deflection in a somewhat dubious decision.
Here's the team Sarachan ran out (3-4-1-2): Henry Ring - Denny Clanton (Evan Whitfield 46), Jim Curtin, C.J. Brown - Logan Pause, Jesse Marsch (Dipsy Selolwane 77), Scott Buete (Andy Herron 46), Kelly Gray - Andy Williams - Nate Jaqua, Damani Ralph
WIZARDS v FIRE
This is the second time the teams have met in the U.S. Open Cup. The Fire claimed a 1-0 away victory in the third round in 2001, a Hristo Stoitchkov goal nearly on the stroke of full time sending the Fire through.
They also met in the 2000 MLS Cup Final, where a Miklos Molnar goal 11 minutes into the match gave the Wizards their only MLS championship, Tony Meola then making 10 saves to preserve the margin.
As a reminder, here's the team Bob Gansler ran out that day in Washington: Tony Meola, Chris Klein (Francisco Gomez 89), Nick Garcia, Peter Vermes, Brandon Prideaux, Preki (Uche Okafor 74), Matt McKeon, Kerry Zavagnin, Chris Henderson, Mo Johnston, Miklos Molnar
Here's Bob Bradley's team: Zach Thornton, C.J. Brown, Carlos Bocanegra, Tenywa Bonseu, Peter Nowak (Lubos Kubik 83), Diego Gutierrez (DaMarcus Beasley 70), Chris Armas, Jesse Marsch (Josh Wolff 59), Dema Kovalenko, Hristo Stoitchkov, Ante Razov
The Fire have won nine of the last 13 meetings between the teams in all competitions (seven of 11 in league play), and they have never lost to the Wizards at home. Chicago owns all five victories by the road team in the series. But the Fire haven't won in their last three trips to Arrowhead Stadium (two draws this season, a 4-2 loss in the second '02 meeting).
The teams have met three times in league play this season, the Fire winning the last after playing to two draws at Arrowhead Stadium in their first two meetings - the first deadlocks in the series history after playing 17 matches without one.
The Fire continued their home dominance against Kansas City in their last meeting, winning for the ninth time in nine meetings with a 3-1 victory at Soldier Field on Sept. 1 as Andy Williams and Craig Capano scored four minutes apart in the second half.
Justin Mapp gave the home side the lead on 23 minutes, after Andy Williams picked him out with a long diagonal ball from midfield, but the Wizards pulled level just after the half-hour, Davy Arnaud's cross from the right flank finding Josh Wolff in the heart of the area who headed past Fire 'keeper D.J. Countess.
Yet the Fire began to overrun the Wizards after the interval, finally breaking through in the 67th minute, when Mapp turned provider and Williams turned finisher, easily knocking home a cross from the right flank. Capano then capped the scoring on a nearly identical play, sweeping home a Mapp cross from the right.
The Wizards ended the night reduced to 10 men when midfielder Alex Zotinca was sent off for violent conduct after striking at Chicago's C.J. Brown with an elbow.
Here's Sarachan's team (4-4-2): D.J. Countess - Evan Whitfield (Leonard Griffin 79), C.J. Brown, Jim Curtin, Kelly Gray - Andy Williams, Jesse Marsch (Scott Buete 88), Logan Pause, Justin Mapp - Damani Ralph, Nate Jaqua (Craig Capano 66).
Here's Gansler's team (4-4-2): Bo Oshoniyi - Taylor Graham, Nick Garcia, Shavar Thomas, Jose Burciaga Jr. - Alex Zotinca, Diego Gutierrez, Jack Jewsbury (Francisco Gomez 71), Igor Simutenkov (Preki 46) - Josh Wolff (Matt Taylor 88), Davy Arnaud.
The Wizards twice held leads before settling for a 2-2 draw in their last K.C. meeting on May 8. Chris Klein's shot past Henry Ring (9) gave the Wizards a halftime lead, but Justin Mapp's angled shot from inside the area brought the visitors level just seven minutes after the break.
Davy Arnaud's blast after skipping around a defender again put the home side into the lead (64), but Dipsy Selolwane finally coaxed the ball over the line after a couple of desperate saves by Wizards 'keeper Tony Meola for an 83rd-minute leveller.
The teams played to a scoreless draw in the first meeting at Arrowhead Stadium on April 3, the first draw in the series history between the two teams. The closest either team came to a goal was when K.C.'s Diego Gutierrez saw his second-half effort hit the outside of the post. Wizards midfielder Chris Klein and Chicago's C.J. Brown were sent off for mutual aggression after 74 minutes.
The Wizards have had more trouble with Chicago than any other team in the league. With just the four wins and two draws in 20 matches, it is by far their worst record against any single opponent, and K.C. has losing records against just two other active clubs (v Columbus, P23 W9 L11 D3; v Los Angeles P34 W14 L16 D4).
ALL-TIME (20 meetings): Fire 14 wins (1 shootout), 50 goals ... Wizards 4 wins (0 shootout), 24 goals ... 2 draws
IN KANSAS CITY (11 meetings): Fire 5 wins, 25 goals ... Wizards 4 wins, 18 goals ... 2 draws