BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Frank Yallop has long maintained that his Chicago Fire side should be judged when he has all of his key players on the field.
Tonight, those key players turned up and showed exactly why Yallop brought them to the club, igniting what has been a disappointing season thus far.
Goals from Patrick Nyarko and two from Kennedy Igboananike illuminated an attacking display that was full of promise and intent, especially so in the opening 30 minutes and the closing 25, when the introduction of substitutes David Accam and Igboananike inspired the hosts to a deserved 3-1 US Open Cup quarterfinal victory against Orlando City SC.
“I’ve sat here long enough and said to you guys ‘when we have [all] our guys on the field we are pretty good’ and I think it showed tonight,” said a delighted Yallop, who opened his analysis of the game with “I’m smiling, it feels good to win.”
“We had the difference makers out there and they were [difference makers]."
The Fire returned to the pulsating, counter-attacking style that brought them victories and plaudits in the early part of the season, but went missing in recent weeks with Yallop robbed of the services of key men Nyarko, Shaun Maloney, David Accam, Mike Magee, Joevin Jones and Jeff Larentowicz.
“I thought Kennedy, obviously, with his two goals, when he gets the service can finish, and David’s got world class sprinting speed along with great skills and he’s electric out there," Yallop said. "I thought Shaun was excellent in the game too. Him and David have not played much, Shaun’s not done anything for five weeks, and to put that performance in was wonderful."
On another night the Fire might have been out of sight early, registering 20 shots to Orlando's eight, but not putting the game to bed until Igboananike hit for a brace in the 87th and 90th minutes.
While Igboananike and Accam will understandably receive most of the acclaim following the stirring performance, the unheralded Matt Watson shone in the center of midfield alongside Razvan Cocis, with the pairing showing promise in recent weeks.
“We go way back and Matt will give you everything he’s got if he’s comfortable and knows his role,” Yallop said of Watson. “He loves chasing the ball down, he likes to be physical, when he gets it he likes to drive with it. I thought he was great tonight, and in Columbus, and I thought he and Razvan were great. The triangle to start the half off, with Raz, Matty and Shaun limited their chances. I think their first shot on goal [and only] was the goal, if I’m not mistaken.”
He was not mistaken, and now the Fire move on to a semifinal meeting at the Philadelphia Union on August 11.
"The whole team was excellent tonight," Yallop said. "I was really proud of the way we played and I thought we thoroughly deserved to win the game, for sure. That was very pleasing.”