The Chicago Fire advanced to the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup quarterfinals by the skin of their teeth on Tuesday night, overcoming a very poor first half to defeat the USL-Pro Rochester Rhinos 1-0 in third-round action at Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester, N.Y.
A goal from Fire forward Diego Cháves late in the first half stood for the remainder of the match, setting up a showdown between Chicago and the New York Red Bulls at Toyota Park on July 12.
The Fire used a makeshift lineup, starting only two players — goalkeeper Sean Johnson and midfielder Daniel Paladini — who began Sunday’s 1-1 draw against New York in MLS play.
The reserve-laden Fire started very poorly, failing to hold possession, defending sloppily and getting completely dominated by Rochester for most of the first half.
The Rhinos had several opportunities to take the lead in the opening 30 minutes, and they probably should’ve gone ahead in the 16th. Fire defender Dasan Robinson gave the ball away in the final third and the Rhinos nearly took advantage, swinging the ball to midfielder Kendall Jagdeosingh, who whistled a 10-yard shot over the bar from the left side of the box.
The Rhinos had another chance in the 19th minute, when midfielder Tony Donatelli hit a low ball across the face of goal that Johnson did well to latch on to.
Rochester forward Andrew Hoxie had a good look at net in the 29th minute, but couldn’t quite corral a bouncing ball at the top of the six, failing to get a shot on frame.
Fire forward Cháves made Rochester pay for their missed opportunities in the 37th minute, when he scored a goal completely against the run of play. The Uruguayan ran onto a punched ball at the top of the 18, hitting a strong half-volley into the lower right corner with his first touch.
Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas made a couple of changes early in the second half, bringing on winger Patrick Nyarko for Gabriel Ferrari at halftime and inserting defender Jalil Anibaba for an injured Robinson in the 49th.
The changes helped Chicago, who held a lot more of the ball, looked more organized in the back and created a couple chances up top.
But the Fire were by no means out of the woods, nearly giving up an equalizer in the 64th. Donatelli played Jagdeosingh behind the Chicago back four, but Johnson was quick off his line and smothered the ball before the Trinidadian midfielder could get there.
The Fire saw out most of the final 25 minutes with relative ease, limiting the Rhinos to a few weak opportunities and nearly adding a second goal on a few occasions.
Things did get a little bit dicey for Chicago four minutes into second-half stoppage time, as Rochester nearly grabbed equalizer after a wild goalmouth scramble.
Chicago return to league play at Chivas USA this Saturday.
(Photo courtesy of Rochester Rhinos Communications.)
CHI – Diego Chaves (unassisted) 37’
ROC – Troy Roberts (Caution) 26’
CHI – Michael Videira (Caution) 72’
ROC – Rich Costanzo (Caution) 87’
ROC – Alfonso Motagalvan (Caution) 90+’
CHI – Cristian Nazarit (Caution) 90+’
Chicago Fire: Sean Johnson; Bratislav Ristic, Josip Mikulic, Dasan Robinson (Jalil Anibaba 49’), Pari Pantazopoulos; Gabriel Ferrari (Patrick Nyarko 46’), Michael Videira, Daniel Paladini, Corben Bone (Dominic Oduro 75’); Diego Chaves, Cristian Nazarit
Substitutes not used: Jon Conway, Baggio Husidic, Davis Paul, Orr Barouch
Rochester Rhinos: Neal Kitson; TJ Gore (Rich Costanzo 44’), Troy Roberts, Tyler Bellamy, Quaves Kirk; Alfonso Motagalvan, Tony Donatelli, Michael Tanke (Isaac Kissi 80’), Tyler Rosenlund, Kendall Jagdeosignh; Andrew Hoxie (JC Banks 67’)
Substitutes Not Used: Ryan Kenny, Will Traynor, Anthony Hamilton, Drew C
Referee: Daniel Fitzgerald
Referee’s Assistants: Democratis Pashalidis, Amanda Ross
4th Referee: Scott Boniface
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.