BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Mike Magee’s scoring return to the starting XI and the Chicago Fire’s return to winning ways were the two main positives to extract from a lengthy and eventful US Open Cup night at Toyota Park.
After the initial 7:30 pm CT kick off had been delayed almost two hours because of violent thunderstorms in the Chicago area, the hosts assumed a 2-1 halftime lead against their determined and organized USL PRO opponents, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.
After loanee Grant Ward opened his Fire account with a well-taken finish in the 22nd minute having been put through by Quincy Amarikwa, Magee (above, right) was in the right place to drive home Jeff Larentowicz’s knockdown header from Harry Shipp’s corner in the 40th minute.
Fire head coach Frank Yallop was delighted with the reigning MLS MVP's return performance after sitting out the previous four games with a calf strain.
“Mike’s trained well over the last week, and he’s looked good and sharp,” Yallop said of Magee, who has joined Amarikwa and Shipp on five goals for the season in all competitions. “And he feels he wants to get some minutes under him and really get going, and I thought he was sharp tonight, played well. He scored the goal, had the chance in the second half. He’ll be back to his best I’m sure pretty soon.”
That second half resumed more than an hour after the players left the field for half-time because of continuing thunder and lightning in the area, before the sides eventually took to the field for a further four minutes before referee Alex Chilowicz called the game at approximately 11:40pm local time.
Those four minutes saw Magee hit the crossbar with a drive from inside the area, as the hosts started the half brightly before Mother Nature’s intervention allowed the few hundred brave and committed fans who remained to return to the sanctuary of home.
“It is good to get a win,” Yallop said as he addressed the media after the game. “It’s been a while, so yeah, obviously these games are never easy. But I thought we went about the game in the right manner. We moved the ball pretty well in the first half. You know, against any opposition it’s difficult to play good soccer, and I thought we did create some good chances.”
“Disappointed with the goal we conceded, we seem to struggle to keep a clean sheet at this point, but nice to get a win, nice to get through to the next round, and now we can look forward to next Wednesday, which is an important game in our quest for the Cup,” he added.
The Columbus Crew stand between the Fire and a place in the quarterfinals, and Yallop and his team will be anxious to improve on their recent 2-0 defeat in Columbus in league play.
“Yeah, I mean, different competition, different circumstances,” Yallop insisted. “I’m excited to play against Columbus next week, and I’m sure it will be an entertaining game, but one that we’re trying to win, and try to do well in the Open Cup, so we’re fully loaded and ready to go. And hopefully, we can get a good result.”