Goals by David Accam, Michael De Leeuw, and Khaly Thiam were enough for the Chicago Fire to cruise past the Fort Lauderdale Strikers 3-0. Chicago now moves on to the semifinals of the 2016 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and will face the New England Revolution.
Chicago gets ahead early thanks to Accam
Chicago showed why they were the favorites coming into this game early on. Arturo Alvarez played a nice one-two combination with de Leeuw and then found Accam streaking down the left wing. The winger received his touch and sprinted towards goal. He was able to get past Strikers keeper Diego Restrepo but was taken down right after. It was a clear penalty and the referee pointed to the spot. Accam then stepped up and sent the goalkeeper the wrong way for the opening goal. This was the perfect start for the Fire, striking quickly in the opening five minutes against an underdog opponent.
Accam used again used his speed to break down the Strikers defense in the 35th minute. He took the ball near midfield and dribbled all the way to the edge of the area. Then he juked a defender, causing him to fall, rounded the keeper, and got off a shot. But it was blocked in front of goal. Thankfully for Chicago, the deflection came straight to De Leeuw who had no problem finishing off a golden chance like that.
“For us, it was a terrible situation,” said Fort Lauderdale manager regarding the early goals scored by Chicago
The Strikers had a couple of opportunities on the counterattack. But both of those times they were stopped by a diving save from Matt Lampson. Those two chances came far in between each other in the first half. It was a relatively easy first half for the Fire defense. There were not clear cut chances for Fort Lauderdale to take advantage of.
The only worry for Chicago in the opening 45 minutes was that their captain, Razvan Cocis had to be subbed off in the first half due to injury. It would be a big blow to the Fire if he were to miss time as his presence in the attacking midfield has proven to be a huge boost this season.
After the game, Paunovic announced that Cocis had suffered a strong contusion in his calf.
Controlled second half leads Fire to victory
Just like in the first half, the Fire generated a great chance in the opening five minutes. In fact, there were two great chances. Off a corner, Nick LaBrocca made a great run and got a free header. But it was right at Restrepo. Accam had a header go inches wide a minute later. It looked like Fort Lauderdale had survived the initial wave of Chicago chances, but it took one more chance to break the Strikers. Another Chicago corner saw Restrepo make a great save. But his rebound spilled right to Khaly Thiam. Thiam made no mistake, slotting the ball into the bottom left corner for the third goal of the game for Chicago.
“We executed the plan perfectly today,” said Fire manager Veljko Paunovic after the game.
The Strikers began piling on the pressure in terms of chances in the second half. Fort Lauderdale almost scored off a miscue from Lampson in the 56th minute. Victor Giro had a shot, one that looked like an easy save for Matt Lampson. Except he slipped, making his save much tougher. In the 62nd minute, Jose Angulo slipped through the defense and chipped Lampson. But the flag was raised on the far side and the chance was negated.
Things got even worse, however, in the 69th minute. Midfielder Gale Agbossoumonde was sent off for a challenge on Accam, a decision that did not please the Strikers.
From then on, the game's pace began to slow down gradually with both teams accepting the scoreline.
“It was a great opportunity to manage these types of games,” Paunovic added when asked about how he thought the second half went in terms of how his team played.
At the final whistle, it was a 3-0 victory for Chicago. The Fire now move on to their second straight U.S. Open Cup semifinal berth.