The Chicago Fire became the first MLS team to be eliminated by a non-MLS team in the 2019 edition of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, falling 2-1 at USL Championship club Saint Louis FC at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri, on Tuesday night.
After failing to capitalize on a flurry of chances in the opening minutes, Chicago was stunned in the 17th minute when Austin Martz made a back-post run and headed in a pinpoint left-wing cross from Russell Cicerone. Before the Fire could even compose themselves, Saint Louis FC doubled the lead in the 21st minute from a free kick, as Guy Abend snuck free for a wide-open header from Lewis Hilton's delivery.
After losing center back Johan Kappelhof to injury in the first half, Chicago pulled a goal back in the 72nd minute, when Djordje Mihailovic drew a penalty kick that Nemanja Nikolic converted emphatically, but former Georgetown University and San Jose Earthquakes goalkeeper Tomas Gomez made eight saves as Saint Louis FC held on for the win despite being out-shot 19-6.
In their fifth season, the win was the first over an MLS team in three tries for Saint Louis FC, who had previously lost to Sporting Kansas City (2015) and the Fire (2017).
- 17' – STL – Austin Martz | WATCH
- 21' – STL – Guy Abend | WATCH
- 72' – CHI – Nemanja Nikolic (PK) | WATCH
- THE BIG PICTURE: Five games winless for Chicago, and the Fire also endure a first-game exit from the U.S. Open Cup for the first time since a 2012 upset at the hands of the amateur Michigan Bucks. When will Veljko Paunovic and this group sustain some momentum?
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: It came early. In just the 2nd minute, Saint Louis FC goalkeeper Tomas Gomez stoned C.J. Sapong and Nemanja Nikolic from close range, then scrambled across the six-yard box to block Nico Gaitan's effort — all in less than 10 seconds of a wild penalty-area scramble. Chicago did not seriously threaten again until they were already trailing by two goals.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Gomez set the tone early and held up his end of the bargain throughout, making an excellent second-half stop on Fabian Herbers in addition to his early heroics.
- STL: Sat., June 15 at Bethlehem Steel, USL Championship (8 pm ET | ESPN+)
- CHI: Sat., June 22 vs. Real Salt Lake (8 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US; DAZN in Canada)