After being pushed to 120 scoreless minutes on Wednesday in the Round of 16 of the 2017 U.S. Open Cup, USL underdog FC Cincinnati won a penalty shootout 3-1 over the Chicago Fire at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati.
The Fire put the hosts under considerable pressure in the middle of the first half, with several solid chances going begging. In the second half, FC Cincinnati found another level of resolve to hold the Fire back and put together a few attacking forays of their own. Former Fire midfielder Corben Bone had a breakaway in second-half stoppage time that forced a game-saving save by Matt Lampson, ultimately sending the game to extra time.
In the 105th minute, Nemanja Nikolic forced a major stop from Cincinnati GK Mitch Hildebrandt. It looked as though Andrew Wiedeman notched the go-ahead goal in the 109th minute for Cincinnati, but the assistant referee flagged him offside on the play.
Hildebrandt put in a man of the match performance, making three key saves in the penalty shootout to cap off a fantastic performance for FCC.
Cincinnati will next face another lower-division team, NASL's Miami FC, in the quarterfinal round of the Open Cup in Miami on Jul. 12.
- MITCH SAYS NO: Certainly, it took a team effort on Cincinnati's part to get the win here, but Hildebrandt absolutely was a step above the pack in getting the job done. The 2016 USL Goalkeeper of the Year, Hildebrandt made three saves in four Fire attempts on the penalty shootout (only Bastian Schweinsteiger converted his penalty for Chicago). It was in some ways a career night, especially on a nationally televised ESPN broadcast, but it may also give those who don't watch USL closely a glimpse of Hildebrandt's quality.
- NO KINGS IN CHICAGO: The Fire were firmly in control of the game in the first half, but this was a lesson in not wasting your chances, as Cincinnati restored the balance after the restart. While both teams had good chances, and Cincinnati put in a gutsy performance, it must be said that Chicago just were not at their best in a knockout game, and they won't have a chance to win their fifth Open Cup all-time as a result.
- JUSTICE IS SERVED? It may have taken a penalty shootout, but on the balance of the events in the game, Cincinnati fully deserved the win. In addition to the Wiedeman goal being waived off for an offside call in extra time, despite appearing on replays to be onside, Fire defender Johan Kappelhof appeared to handle the ball in the box late in the second half but FCC appeals for a penalty were ignored. It may have been an upset in the Cup based on these teams' places in the pyramid, but despite being decided by the narrowest of margins Cincinnati appeared to deserve the victory overall.
- CHI: Saturday, Jul. 1 – vs. Vancouver (7 pm ET | MLS LIVE, TSN in Canada)