03 October 2011
Posted in Chicago Fire
The moment is almost upon us. After a long, long wait we are only a day away from the kickoff of the US Open Cup final. For a lot of us, tomorrow morning will be more exciting than Christmas - even a Christmas full of Fire gear. One thing is for certain, tomorrow night will be remarkable either way, either Seattle will continue their recent USOC dominance, or the Fire will tie the all time record for most USOC titles. What can we expect from this match and will Fire fans sleep happy tomorrow night? Let's get into it after the break.
First off, I want to give a shoutout to Jeff Crandall for his excellent blogging of the road to Seattle. I also want to borrow a quote from today's article because I think it's just perfect. Chicago Fire interim manager and Open Cup hero, Frank Klopas was sitting next to Crandall on the flight to Seattle and overheard Klopas tell Fire Captain Logan Pause, “Kid, let’s go to Seattle and win the Open Cup.” Pause's response? “Let’s do it."
I'm sorry, but picturing that scene gives me chills. It reminds me of something you'd see in a movie before the Cinderella team goes out and pulls off the unthinkable. I love it. Let's face it, prior to mid-August the Open Cup was all Fire supporters had to look forward to this year - that and the arrival of Kellen Gulley to the first team in 2012.
You all know the history, but let's review:
1998 - In their innaugural season the Fire win the double with the MLS Cup and the US Open Cup
2000 - Fire win their 2nd Open Cup in 3 years
2003 - Fire continue their USOC dominance with their 3rd Open Cup title
2006 - Fire win their 4th USOC title in their 9 year history - only 5 other teams have won at least 4 titles since the Open Cup started in 1913-1914.
2011 - Fire kick off their Open Cup campaign with the epic and unthinkable "Goal in the fog" by rookie Jalil Anibaba - against defending MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids. They follow this up with a HUGE come from behind victory in PK's over San Jose. The Fire then travel to face Rochester and win a hard fought 1-0 victory away from home. And then the power outage game - we all remember this one. The final step was dispatching of the scrappy Richmond Kickers at home...and now here we are.
If the Fire win tomorrow night it will be their 5th USOC title. Only two other teams have done this in history - none have won more than five. As it stands now, the next closest current MLS teams are at two titles (Seattle of course included).
So, what can we expect and will we see the men in red hoisting another trophy tomorrow night?
Honestly, when I saw Seattle beat FC Dallas I was concerned. I thought Dallas would be a good matchup for us - especially since it would be at home. But, the more I see the Fire lately - I think we are going to be in for one hell of a ride tomorrow night.
Dominc Oduro is a legitimate Golden Boot contender. I have been highly critical of Marco Pappa for most of the season, but no one is happier than I am that he seems to have found his form again - and at the perfect time. The arrival of Pavel Pardo has turned this Fire attack into about as dangerous an attack as there is. Patrick Nyarko looks great up front. Dan Gargan is playing out of his mind at right back. All of this has been said, we know what we can expect from the Fire, we've seen them all season. What can we expect from Seattle?
Any conversation about the Seattle attack has to start with Fredy Montero. The 24 year old is an absolute beast and is another legit Golden Boot candidate. Somehow, the Fire backline needs to find a way to stop him putting the ball in the back of the net. Sean Johnson needs to play the match of his life, and he needs help from his defenders.
Another player you can't not talk about in the Seattle conversation is their keeper - Kasey Keller. He may be 41, but he can keep the ball out of the net with the best of them. He can, however, be beaten. Just ask Eric Hassli. In two matches against Chicago this season Keller has allowed one goal - to Diego Chaves.
One thing that we need to keep an eye on is the injury report. Two key Sounders players will be gametime decisions tomorrow night, James Riley and Mauro Rosales.
Seattle is no doubt one of the best teams in the league, but the Fire played them well both times this year - and both matches occured before the arrivals of Pavel Pardo, Dan Gargan, and Sebastian Grazzini (will he play?). They also occured before the rebirth of Oduro and Pappa. This is going to be a great match, and I truly believe that the Fire can and will be raising the cup tomorrow night.
Prediction: Sounders FC 2 - 3 Fire (Oduro, Pappa, Pardo)
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