The Chicago Fire reached Tuesday’s US Open Cup Final at Seattle as a team on the rise. As long as they kept getting goals from forward Dominic Oduro, stability from midfielder Pável Pardo, and saves from goalie Sean Johnson, they figured they’d keep riding their hot streak all the way to the Open Cup title.
Chicago got plenty of saves from Johnson on Tuesday, but they didn’t get the performance they needed out of the rest of their squad, ending their run of good form by conceding two late goals to fall 2-0 to the Sounders in the all-important final at CenturyLink Field.
The Fire would’ve tied the all-time record for Open Cup championships at five with a win.
Chicago were without dynamic midfielder Sebastián Grazzini for all but five minutes of Tuesday’s match, as the creative playmaker, who missed the Fire’s last two games with a left hamstring injury, didn’t come on until the 85th minute.
His absence was felt acutely, as the Fire couldn’t find their forwards, struggled to hold possession and, as a result, absorbed a lot of pressure from the Sounders attack throughout the match.
Interim head coach Frank Klopas explained his decision to wait so long to insert Grazzini after the game, telling MLSsoccer.com that the Argentine midfielder, whose status was up in the air as late as Tuesday morning, was only fit to play five to 10 minutes.
“It had nothing to do with it being the 85th minute,” Klopas said. “I knew the guy, talked to him, and he said he could give us 10 minutes.”
Grazzini could’ve helped the Fire midfield settle in and develop a rhythm, something Klopas said his team struggled to do against Seattle’s Osvaldo Alonso-led midfield quartet.
“We just couldn’t get in rhythm,” he said. “I think they started by pressing us pretty hard. Once the game settled, we had moments where we were able to knock the ball, keep some possession, and thus create some opportunities and get some continuity, but we never got that kind of rhythm [for the rest of the match].”
Klopas also said that normally in-sync forwards Dominic Oduro and Patrick Nyarko didn’t display their usual chemistry on Tuesday night, struggling to combine well against the solid Sounders defense.
“It was difficult, really, for the front-runners to kind of work well together,” Klopas said. “They weren’t synchronized, our movement wasn’t synchronized, and it was difficult.
“I think [Seattle] did a good job pressing us and we just never really got a rhythm … going through midfield with some possession where we would be able to get our frontrunners involved.”
Unable to get much going, Chicago walked away from CenturyLink Field empty-handed.
“Obviously we’re disappointed … with not winning,” said Klopas. “We put a lot of effort into it, but it wasn’t particularly one of our better nights.”
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com