Fire looks to keep rolling in U.S. Open Cup semifinal vs. United
BY ELI KABERON For Sun-Times Media August 6, 2013 6:48PM
Edson Buddle, Austin Berry
Updated: August 9, 2013 6:37PM
Before they opened the season, Fire players and coaches outlined their goals as a team. The first one was simple: Win the MLS Cup. No. 2 was to win the U.S. Open Cup.
On Wednesday night at Toyota Park, the Fire can take a major step toward accomplishing the second goal when they face off with D.C. United in the Open Cup semifinals at 7:30 p.m. A win would put the Fire on the doorstep of winning the Cup title for the first time since 2006.
“We put a lot of focus into the Open Cup,” center back Austin Berry said. “It’s only five wins, so it’s the easier to attain of the two championships we could win. But it still means a lot.”
The title is attainable, especially given how well the Fire has been playing of late. The team has gone 2-0-1 in its last three matches, including a 4-1 victory at Toyota Park against United on July 20, the Fire’s second win against United this season. Berry said the momentum from the winning streak will help Wednesday, though the players must not take their opponent lightly.
“It’s nice to have that confidence and a winning mind-set going into games,” said Berry. “We’ve been playing well recently and getting good results, and that really helps moving forward.
“But [United] is going to give us a tough game. We have to put our past results against them behind us and focus on beating them again.”
Historically, the Fire has been strong in the Open Cup. This season marks its eighth appearance in the tournament’s semifinals, which is tied with United for the most all-time among MLS teams. The Fire also has won the Cup four times, which is a league record.
For the Fire to win the title, it will need to maintain its balanced scoring and strong defense. In its three Open Cup games this year, the Fire has outscored its opponents 9-2, with Mike Magee and Chris Rolfe scoring three goals each. With more of that, the Fire could be closer to achieving one of their goals.
“We talked about players who go through their whole career who never have an opportunity to win a championship,” Berry said. “So it’s important to take advantage of these things when they present themselves, especially playing a home game.”