For four straight years the Chicago Fire have reached the semifinals of the US Open Cup. And for four straight years, they have fallen short of the trophy their forbears captured four times.
This year's run ended at the hands of the New England Revolution at a raucous Gillette Stadium on Tuesday night, as goals from Kei Kamara, Je-Vaughn Watson and Teal Bunbury extinguished a David Accam-led Fire rally and advanced the Revs into the 2016 Open Cup final vs. the winner of Wednesday's LA Galaxy-FC Dallas semifinal.
Kamara opened the scoring from the penalty spot, but Accam leveled matters in the 40th minute with a twinkle-toed finish that saw him plant Watson on the turf with a nasty cutback. Chicago's joy was soon cut short, however, as Watson atoned for his error by heading home from close range just two minutes later.
New England protected their advantage fairly comfortably after the break, with Bunbury stroking home a low left-footed finish from distance to ice the result. A frustrated Accam was sent off in the dying minutes as he committed a hard foul on Kelyn Rowe, then shoved the Revs midfielder to earn a straight red card, taking with him the Fire's last hopes of glory amid another trying season.
- 16' -- NE -- Kei Kamara (PK)
- 40' -- CHI -- David Accam (Michael de Leeuw)
- 42' -- NE -- Je-Vaughn Watson
- 85' -- NE -- Teal Bunbury (Kei Kamara)
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1. JAMAICAN GUT PUNCH: The Fire may rue the last five minutes of the first half for some time to come. Accam's good work had drawn them level, seemingly providing a vital boost heading into the halftime break. But less than 120 seconds later, the back line allowed Watson to sneak in among a crowd of red jerseys and nod home the loose ball after Kamara's flick-on of a Revs corner kick. It was a galling setback for a defense-first team, and one they couldn't recover from.
3. NIGHTFALL IN CHI-TOWN? Stranded at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings for months, the Fire have prioritized the Open Cup as their best chance at taking some joy from a rebuilding year under first-year coach Veljko Paunovic and GM Nelson Rodriguez. So it was particularly painful for Chicago hearts to see the Revs, who are right in the thick of the playoff chase, put paid to those hopes. The Fire aren't officially out of the postseason reckoning, but the focus is already shifting towards 2017.
2. LEE NGUYEN, SUPERSUB: Perhaps coach Jay Heaps was simply rotating players with an eye towards Saturday's key league match vs. Philly. But it was nonetheless surprising to see the Revs' star playmaker start this one on the bench. To Heaps' credit, Bunbury and Rowe both played important roles in the win. Are we witnessing a change to New England's established formula?
- NE: Saturday, Aug. 13 vs. Philadelphia Union (7:30 pm ET; MLS LIVE)
- CHI: Sunday, Aug. 14 vs. Orlando City (4 pm ET; UniMás in US, MLS LIVE in Canada)