Saint Louis F.C. Defeat Chicago Fire, Advance In U.S. Open Cup
pic credit to Saint Louis FC Facebook page
Written by, Josh McGehee
St. Louis, MO – Under the backdrop of the city’s efforts to acquire a franchise in Major League Soccer, Saint Louis F.C. faced off against MLS competition for the third time in the club’s history Tuesday night. This time, they were victorious.
In front of 4,456 fans at Harlen C. Hunter Stadium at Lindenwood University, STLFC defeated the Chicago Fire 2-1 to advance to the Round of 16 in the U.S. Open Cup for the first time in club history.
“I’m really pleased for the fans and everybody involved with the club,” said STLFC head coach Anthony Pulis. “We’ve gotten through to the Round of 16 for the first time in history, we’ve made the best start ever to a league campaign. I think we need to take some time to enjoy this.”
The Fire, four-time winners of the U.S. Open Cup, didn’t take the matchup lightly as MLS mainstays Dax McCarty, CJ Sapong, Djordje Mihailović, Nemanja Nikolić, and Nicolás Gaitán (formerly of Benfica and Atlético Madrid) all made the starting eleven.
Chicago nearly opened the scoring right away in the 2nd minute when Sapong was in on goal, but goalkeeper Tomas Gomez came off his line to make the save and defenseman Sam Fink eventually cleared the danger.
The Fire dominated play for the opening fifteen minutes as STLFC were unable to get much possession. However, when their first scoring chance came in the 17th minute, they were ready.
After collecting a pass on the left flank from midfielder Lewis Hilton, winger Russell Cicerone played a ball to the back post, where fellow winger Austin Martz was waiting to head the ball into the net for his first goal with STLFC and for the 1-0 lead.
“It’s been a really long time coming,” said Martz when asked about the goal. “It’s almost been a year and a half now playing for the club, and to get it on a night like this against an MLS club is really special.”
STLFC would double their lead in the 21st minute when Hilton sent a free kick from the left flank to the center of the box, where midfielder Guy Abend was waiting unmarked to head it in.
“We had a game plan of getting the ball into the box, getting crosses in, and we managed to get on the end of two of them,” said Hilton. “We worked as hard as we could and managed to get a great result.”
The Fire came out strong in the second half forcing several diving saves from Gomez, with the best one coming in the 56th minute from a powerful shot by forward Fabian Herbers.
However, their frustrations would become visible in the 60th minute when Mihailović, who recently was cut from the national team’s Gold Cup roster, got into a shoving match with Gomez.
STLFC nearly made it 3-0 in the 68th minute when Hilton’s free kick that was headed for the far corner was tipped off the post by goalkeeper Kenneth Kronholm and eventually cleared.
The Fire would finally breakthrough in the 71st minute when Mihailović was tripped up in the box and Nikolić stepped up to score the ensuing penalty kick.
Chicago would press hard for the final twenty minutes, but STLFC held firm to secure their first ever victory vs. MLS opposition.
“I’m fortunate to work with a fantastic group of players every day- their mentality is great- and I knew that if we played anywhere near the level we’re capable of, individually and collectively, that we would give Chicago a run for their money”, said. Pulis
STLFC will learn who their next opponent in the cup will be on Thursday but return to league action this Saturday when they travel to Pennsylvania to take on Bethlehem Steel FC.