Atlanta Silverbacks vs. Chicago Fire
July 9, 2014, 7:30 pm ET
Atlanta Silverbacks Park, Atlanta, Georgia
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The Chicago Fire have deservedly picked up the 'Kings of the Cup' moniker for their MLS-record four US Open Cup wins, and will have eyes on an all-time record-tying fifth after making it to the quarterfinals in 2014. Standing in their way, though, are the NASL's Atlanta Silverbacks, coached by former USMNT star Eric Wynalda and already with two impressive MLS scalps to their name.
The Fire have taken a somewhat odd road to get here, having beaten the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in a weather-shortened contest before winning a wild one against the Columbus Crew. The Silverbacks, meanwhile, got started by routing amateur Chattanooga FC before knocking out 2013 finalists Real Salt Lake, followed by the Colorado Rapids.
Chicago Fire Outlook
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Head coach Frank Yallop is not expecting anything easy when he takes his Chicago Fire side into Lamar Hunt US Open Cup action against the relatively unknown quantity of Eric Wynalda’s Atlanta Silverbacks.
The Fire (2-4-10) have found wins hard to come by in regular season play, and Yallop knows that Atlanta will provide a different proposition than previous opponents to the four-time Open Cup winners, especially on a tight turf field.
“We don’t see much of Atlanta, it’s a tough, little tight pitch down there on an artificial surface that makes it a bit smaller because the ball’s bouncing around a little bit,” Yallop told reporters after practice at Toyota Park on Tuesday.
“But they’re up for it, and we’ve got to be up for it,” he added. “We’ve done well in the two games we’ve had here, and now can we take it on the road and get the same result we’ve had in the last two.”
Atlanta’s surprise 2-1 victory over the Colorado Rapids in the previous round was even more sensational given the three red cards shown to Silverbacks players, as well as former Fire striker Wynalda and another member of his coaching staff.
“I wasn’t surprised with Eric, he’s a flamboyant character and he gets emotional, not just on the field, but off it and obviously on the sideline,” Yallop said of the melee which led to the five red cards. “I’ve never seen that many suspensions, arising out of one game, five people from one game. I’ve looked at the melee and it was pretty good.”
The Fire will be without Patrick Nyarko and Benji Joya, but Quincy Amarikwa returns from suspension and captain Jeff Larentowicz is available for selection after missing the recent 1-1 draw at Sporting Kansas City following the birth of his first child.
The winners of this tie will face a difficult semifinal trip to either Portland or Seattle on August 13.
Atlanta Silverbacks Outlook
After winning the NASL's Spring Season in 2013, the Silverbacks had a rough time of it in 2014, finishing eighth in the 10-team competition with a 3-1-5 record. Wynalda threw his support fully behind his players, though.
"I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for our players to continue to show the quality inside our organization," Wynalda, who played for the Fire in 2001, told AtlantaSilverbacks.com of the chance to face his former team in the Open Cup. "We want to keep showing that the MLS level is not beyond our reach by any means.”
Wynalda will, however, have to watch from the stands, alongside assistant Ricardo Montoya, midfielder Borfor Carr, and forwards Jaime Chavez and Kwadwo Poku, after all were dismissed in that dramatic scene during the win over the Rapids.
"The players that will be missing are definitely a big part of this team, but at the end of the day, this is a team and we have players that need to step up," Atlanta forward Deon McCaulay, who will be available, told AtlantaSilverbacks.com. "Those players need to come in and fill the spaces and execute the game plan."