The Chicago Fire smoked out the Colorado Rapids to advance to the next round of preliminaries for the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup at Shea Stadium Wednesday night with a score of 2-1.
Chicago’s namesake certainly seemed to shape the game when Colorado Rapids fans lit some flares close to the Rapids’ goal. As the smoke blew downfield, Chicago’s defensive back Jalil Anibaba blasted a shot through the smoke 40 yards away from the goal.
As Anibaba’s kick sailed through the smoke, Rapids goalkeeper Ian Joyce’s delayed jump could not stop the ball from hitting right inside the upper right corner.
“To be honest, no, I wasn’t thinking about the smoke” Anibaba said. “I was just thinking about how much time and space I had. I got the ball played out wide, and I had a lot of time. My initial thought was to take the defender one-on-one, but I just focused on my strike and getting that on frame.”
The hectic second half was in stark opposition to the first half. While the Fire held the possession advantage, it took 40 minutes for them to find the back of the net.
After Chicago’s Patrick Nyarko was tackled, the free kick bent in front of the goal where Yamit Cuesta headed it in for the first goal of the game.
“Yamit was very aggressive, has good instincts and plays well out of the back,” Anibaba said. “He’s smart and I definitely liked playing with him.”
The Rapids started the second half with high intensity and got immediate results. On the attack, Colorado’s Quincy Amarikwa shook the Chicago defenders with a couple of stutter steps. With a quick pass to Andre Akpan, Akpan shot the ball under a diving the Fire’s goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
Tied 1-1, smoke then started to bellow downfield. After Anibaba’s goal, the Fire was able to keep the Rapids at bay and hold onto the 2-1 victory.
“It was a great result. We are moving on to the next phase of qualifying,” Fire captain Logan Pause said. “I’m really proud of these guys. It wasn’t the prettiest game. It feels good, but it’s only game three.”
The Fire will need one more victory to gain entry into the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. The annual competition is open to not only professional teams from the MLS, but also to amateur adult clubs.
With the MLS season to look forward to after the Open, the Fire will also be playing Manchester United July 23 at Soldier Field.