Fire hoping to hurdle Kickers in Open Cup

Univ. of Richmond Stadium, Richmond, Va., 7 p.m. ET

The defending Open Cup champions face another difficult test in their aim toward a fourth Open Cup Final, traveling to southern Virginia to take on the side that dumped out D.C. United in the fourth round. For all of their rich Open Cup pedigree, the Fire have twice fallen to A-League sides on the road - but both of those were in their first match. This will be the second time the Kickers have faced an MLS team in the Open Cup quarterfinals - last time losing to D.C. United in 2001.

2004 OPEN CUP: The Kickers dumped out MLS neighbor D.C. United in the fourth round of the Open Cup on July 21, winning 2-1 at City Stadium in Richmond. McColm Cephas scored goals on either side of halftime before Nana Kuffour pulled a goal back on his United debut. ... Cephas pounced on a poor touch by a United defender before chipping 'keeper Nick Rimando for his first (33), then drove home a Joey Worthen cross first-time to double the lead in the 64th minute. The 19-year-old Kuffour headed home a Freddy Adu corner kick eight minutes from time but it wasn't enough. ... Here's Leigh Cowlishaw's team: Ronnie Pascale; Matt O'Toole, Tim Brown, Kevin Knight, Peter Luzak, Tony Williams; Richie Williams, Clyde Simms (Matt Delicate 72), McColm Cephas (Mike Burke 83), Joey Worthington; Kevin Jeffrey (Paul Lekics 61). ... ... The Kickers took extra time, but eventually disposed of PDL (fourth division) Cape Cod Crusaders in the third round thanks to a 94th-minute goal from former D.C. United forward David Hayes. ... The Kickers defeated the Virginia Beach Mariners 3-1 on aggregate in their A-League qualifying series, with a 1-1 draw in Richmond (Joey Worthen 69 - Jakob Fenger 43), before winning 2-0 at Virginia Beach (Jeffrey 12; Delicate 28).

U.S. OPEN CUP HISTORY: The 1995 U.S. Open Cup champions, this is the fifth time they've been in the competition since defeating the El Paso Patriots as a USISL team that year. In 1997, the Kickers hammered D3 Philadelphia Freedom 6-1 before losing 3-0 to the MetroStars. In 2000, the Kickers knocked off the Colorado Rapids 3-0 in the second round before falling 2-0 to the San Jose Earthquakes. ... The Kickers then reached the quarterfinals in 2001, beating D3 Reading Rage 7-2 (second round) and A-League Connecticut Wolves 2-1 (third round) before losing 2-1 to D.C. United. ... In 2002, the Kickers defeated PDL (fourth division) Raleigh CASL Elite 3-0 in the second round before falling 3-0 to the Columbus Crew.

2004 A-LEAGUE: The Kickers have moved into second place in the Eastern Conference of the A-League with 42 points from 23 matches, just one behind the Montréal Impact. They are riding a three-game winning streak after sweeping a difficult weekend set, defeating the Puerto Rico Islanders 3-2 at home on Friday, then winning 2-1 away to the Atlanta Silverbacks on Sunday. ... Against the Silverbacks, Kevin Jeffrey scored twice in the opening 22 minutes, the second on a penalty, to send the Kickers on their way. ... Here's the team Leigh Cowlishaw ran out: Ronnie Pascale; Kevin Knight, Peter Luzak, Chris Fox, Matt Delicate (Joseph Vidmar 58), Clyde Simms, Paul Lekics, Mike Burke (Tony Williams 54), Joey Worthen (David Hayes 34), Matthew Bobo, Kevin Jeffrey (McColm Cephas 46). ... Two nights earlier, goals in second-half stoppage time from Matthew Delicate and Rob Ukrop gave the Kickers the full three points at home. ... The Kickers have three of the top 12 point producers in the A-League: Delicate (19, seventh); Cephas (18, ninth) and Jeffrey (16, 12th).

The Chicago Fire began their charge for a fourth U.S. Open Cup in club history with a difficult 2-1 victory against the Columbus Crew in the fourth round on July 20 in Columbus, a Damani Ralph golden goal sending the 2002 champion out of the competition at the first hurdle for the second season running. ... Frankie Hejduk headed home a Chris Wingert cross to give the home side a 27th-minute lead, but Ralph pulled the Fire level from the penalty spot in the 66th minute after Duncan Oughton hacked down Andy Williams in the box. Then in extra-time of the fractious encounter, Edson Buddle was sent off in the 97th minute for a foul on Logan Pause, and nine minutes later Ralph sent the Fire through to the quarterfinals, nodding home a lofted Chris Armas free kick. ... Here's Dave Sarachan's team: Henry Ring, C.J. Brown, Jim Curtin, Denny Clanton, Logan Pause, Chris Armas, Nate Jaqua, Orlando Perez (Leonard Griffin 45), Andy Williams (Dipsy Selolwane 65), Damani Ralph, Justin Mapp (Kelly Gray 93+). ... The Fire won their third U.S. Open Cup in six tries last year, defeating the MetroStars 1-0 behind a Damani Ralph goal in the final at Giants Stadium. ... The Fire's run to the final began with a 4-1 away victory against Milwaukee Wave United (A-League) (Greg Howes 2 - Chris Armas 14, Ante Razov 34, Evan Whitfield 61, Dipsy Selolwane 80). Then in the quarterfinals, the Fire came back to claim a 2-1 victory at home against a 10-man Colorado Rapids (Beasley 44; own goal (Fraser) 53 - Spencer 11), before Chicago reached a third Open Cup final with a wild 3-2 semifinal victory at home against the Los Angeles Galaxy (DaMarcus Beasley 55, Damani Ralph 63, Ante Razov 69 - Alejandro Moreno 73, Arturo Torres 75). ... The Fire won the final in '98 thanks to the late golden goal from Frank Klopas ... The Fire also won the 2000 Open Cup, defeating Miami Fusion in the final thanks to an own goal two minutes from time. ... Chicago also reached the semifinals in 2001, losing on a golden goal to Los Angeles Galaxy. ... The Fire have been eliminated at the first hurdle twice, in 2002 by the A-League Milwaukee Rampage, and in 1999 to the Rochester Raging Rhinos.

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