BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – The scoreline in the Chicago Fire's 5-1 US Open Cup quarterfinal win over Orlando City indicated a blowout, but for a few minutes, the USL PRO side threatened to crash the All-MLS semifinal.
After equalizing early in the second half, the third-division team took control of the game for a small stretch of time that could have been decisive if it weren't for goalkeeper Sean Johnson. Orlando City were on the brink of taking the lead when Dom Dwyer narrowly missed scoring on a breakaway in the 53rd minute, and Kevin Molino fired a shot to Johnson's left that forced an athletic diving save by the goalkeeper.
“Sean was unbelievable today,” midfielder Dilly Duka said. “This was his game. They had many opportunities, and he saved us. We kind of fell off in the second half and at the end of the first. Sean kept us in and we built off of that.”
But just as quickly as Orlando City took control of the game, Patrick Nyarko and Chris Rolfe virtually ended their chances of continuing their Cinderella run, scoring to give the Fire their third win in eight days.
First, Nyarko controlled an Orlando City clearance, beat a few defenders and dribbled about 40 yards before giving the Fire the lead. Five minutes later, Rolfe tipped a shot over goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo to make the score 3-1 after Jeff Larentowicz found him with a chip into space.
“[Nyarko's goal] came at a good time,” Larentowicz told MLSsoccer.com. “There wasn't a lot of time where the game was tied. I think that our attackers were a lot to handle. Overall, it's the end of a long week, and there were probably more spaces than usual just with the way things have gone.”
The Fire scored two more, the first coming after Orlando City had received one red card, and the second after the visitors were two men down.
With a four-goal cushion, the Fire coasted to the win. But for at least a few fleeting minutes early in the second half, Orlando City looked like they'd continue their magical run and end the Fire's bid for a fifth Open Cup title.
“It wasn't even that they were breaking us down, it's that we were sitting back,” forward Mike Magee said. “After they scored, not too long after, you could tell some guys were kind of getting pissed off. That kind of woke us up.”