CHICAGO, IL - The Chicago Fire has learned of its next opponent in the 2004 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, as the Fire will take to the road for the second straight match in the competition to face the United Soccer League (USL) A-League's Richmond Kickers in the quarterfinal round. The Fire and Kickers will battle for a semifinal spot in the 91st edition of the prestigious competition on Wednesday, Aug. 4 at the University of Richmond Stadium in Richmond, VA at 6 p.m. CT.
The Fire reached the quarterfinal round for the fifth time in its seven tournament appearances courtesy of its 2-1 overtime win over the Columbus Crew on Tuesday at Crew Stadium. Forward Damani Ralph would score his second straight game-winner in the competition - his first coming in last year's 1-0 win in the Final over the MetroStars - near the end of the first "golden goal" overtime in the 106th minute to complete the comeback win for the Fire and keep its goal of back-to-back championships in the tournament in tact. With the victory, the Fire snapped a seven-game winless streak and moved its all-time record in U.S. Open Cup play to 16-3-1.
Richmond advanced in the competition by defeating MLS side D.C. United 2-1 in a Fourth Round contest at the University of Richmond Stadium Wednesday evening, becoming the fourth A-League squad to defeat an MLS team to earn its spot in the quarterfinals in the process. The four A-League squads represent the largest USL contingent in the Round of Eight since MLS teams entered the competition in 1996. Richmond joins the Charleston Battery, Minnesota Thunder and the Rochester Raging Rhinos as the A-League representatives in the quarterfinals, while the four MLS teams still alive in the chase for the Dewar Trophy are Chicago, San Jose Earthquakes, Dallas Burn and the Kansas City Wizards.
The Kickers have established themselves as one of the top teams in the A-League since the League's inception in 1997, posting winning records in all eight seasons and making the playoffs in each of its first seven A-League campaigns. The Kickers, now in their 12th season as a USL club, made history in 1995 by winning the "The Double," by virtue of winning that year's Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and Premier League Championships. The pair of championships in 1995 represents the only titles held by the Kickers, who also reached the A-League final as recently as 2002. Richmond currently sits in fourth place in the A-League's Eastern Conference standings with a 10-7-3 record and 33 points, placing them just four points behind co-leaders Montreal and fellow quarterfinalists Rochester.
Richmond is coached by England native Leigh Coliwshaw, who has collected an impressive 82-46-24 record in his five-plus seasons at the helm of the Kickers. On the field, Richmond is led by eight-year MLS veteran Richie Williams, who made his professional debut with the Kickers during the club's inaugural season of 1993 before making the jump to Major League Soccer in 1996. Chicago will line up against more familiar faces than just Williams in the upcoming quarterfinal contest, as former Fire midfielder David Hayes (2001) and ex-MLS players Mike Burke (D.C. United/Dallas Burn, 2000), Kevin Knight (MetroStars, 1999) and Rob Ukrop (New England Revolution, 1996) have also found success as members of the Kickers. Another Chicago connection is defender Matt Bobo, who played for the Chicago Sockers (1999-2000) and Chicago Fire Reserves (2001) in the Premier Development League before beginning his professional career. Two more players to look out for are Matthew Delicâte and McColm Cephas, a pair of rookie forwards out of Virginia Commonwealth University. The Welsh-born Delicâte leads the team in points (16) and goals (6) during the 2004 A-League campaign, while McColm - a native of Liberia who ranks second with 12 points (4g, 4a) - tallied both goals against D.C. United in the Kickers' Round of 16 victory.
The Fire has enjoyed unparalleled success in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup since the team's inception in 1998, winning the coveted Dewar Trophy three times in the club's first six seasons - 1998, 2000 and 2003. The 2003 championship for the Fire marked the eighth time a club from the Windy City had brought the title home to the shores of Lake Michigan in the competition's 90-year history. The Fire is also one of only seven clubs to win the U.S. Open Cup at least three times, and became the first to accomplish the feat since the New York Pancyprian-Freedoms won their third title in 1983. The Fire also remains the lone MLS side to win the tournament multiple times.