Tues., July 1, Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Ill., 7:30 p.m.
Four-time winners of the U.S. Open Cup, the Chicago Fire begin their march toward another when they play host to USL Second Division (third tier) Cleveland City Stars at Toyota Park.
IN THE OPEN CUP: The Chicago Fire are the most decorated MLS team in U.S. Open Cup history, having claimed the Dewar Trophy on four occasions (1998, 2000, 2003, 2006) and lost in the final a fifth time. ... Their last championship came two years ago, when they finished off a run through competition when they had to defeat MLS competition at every step: Los Angeles Galaxy (3-1, final); D.C. United (3-0; semifinal); New England Revolution (2-1; fourth round); Kansas City Wizards (2-0; third round). ... The Fire have also reached the semifinals on two other occasions. ... On three occasions, the Men in Red have been dumped out by lower-level opposition, losing in 1999 to the Rochester Raging Rhinos; in 2002 to the Milwaukee Rampage; and last year to the Carolina RailHawks.
THIS YEAR: The Fire advanced to the U.S. Open Cup tournament proper, with a 3-2 extra-time victory against the Columbus Crew 3-2 in extra time in Peoria, Ill. in the third MLS round. Stephen King gave the Fire a 10th-minute lead, but Emmanuel Ekpo equalized in the 63rd minute. Andy Herron scored two minutes later, but Jason Garey again brought Columbus level in the 67th minute. In the 116th minute, Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer tripped up Herron in the area, and the Costa Rican converted from the spot to send the Fire into the round-of-16.
LAST YEAR: The Fire stumbled at the first hurdle for just the third time and the first time in six years, falling 1-0 to the USL1 Carolina RailHawks in Cary, N.C.
CLEVELAND CITY STARS
IN THE OPEN CUP: The City Stars reached the second round of the Open Cup last year, their first-ever participation in the tournament proper. They defeated the PDL Kansas City Brass 4-0 in the first round, before losing 2-1 to the Richmond Kickers in the second.
THIS YEAR: In the first round, in what was believed to be the first indoor U.S. Open Cup match, held at the Pontiac Silverdome, the City Stars knocked off the PDL Michigan Bucks (unbeaten in league play) 2-1. Ty Shipalane put the Bucks into the lead in the fourth minute, but goals later in the first half from Floyd Franks and Neil Hlavaty sent the City Stars on their way. ... In the second round, the City Stars upset USL-1 side Minnesota Thunder in extra time. After a scoreless 90 minutes, Floyd Franks hit for the opener in the 104th minute, then converted a penalty two minutes later for the lone victory by a USL-2 side against a USL-1 side in the second round.
FORM GUIDE: The Cleveland City Stars sit in second place in the USL Second Division with 23 points from 13 games, five points behind the Charlotte Eagles. ... They are second in the league with 21 goals scored, while having allowed just 10 - and just one in six league home games. ... Sallieu Bundu is tied for third in USL2 with five goals; Adam Ruud is tied for sixth with four.