Forward Madison vs Chicago House AC - U.S. Open Cup 2nd round preview
Photo via @ChicagoHouse_AC on Twitter

The 2nd round of the U.S. Open Cup serves up a Midwestern clash as Forward Madison hosts Chicago House Athletic Club at Breese Stevens Field.

Chicago had to fight to get to this stage. They first had to survive three Open Cup qualifying matches, winning two of those on penalties, including a final contest against Brockton FC United which finished in near-total darkness.

Then came the actual tournament, where they took on reigning Amateur Cup champions Bavarian United SC. It was far from the prettiest game, and the House were second-best for large chunks of the match, but that didn’t matter. They defended well, kept a clean sheet, stole a goal from a set-piece, and held on to secure the monumental victory.

It was a massive result, and it’s what brought them here.

Madison, on the other hand, automatically qualified for this stage due to their status as a USL League One side.

The duality of man remains undefeated.

Despite the very different roads to get here, the two sides will come to a head on Tuesday night with a spot in the 3rd round on the line. Let’s have some fun.

Predicted lineups

Forward Madison: Schipmann, Mehl, Osmond, Crull, Payne, Mesias, Martinez, Bartman, Gebhard, Chaney, Onen

Chicago House: Halterman, Kramer, Makowiecki, Kabbani, Ouaddour, Nguyen, Seymour, Avalos, Almazan, Mann, Smith

Ones to watch

Nazeem Bartman
This won’t necessarily be a homecoming since Madison are the hosts, but current Mingo Nazeem Bartman will get to face off against his former side.

Drafted by the Vancouver Whitecaps in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft, Bartman bounced around the lower leagues before ending up with the House. Things weren’t looking good early on, as he didn’t appear for the club for a while due to injury issues.

However, once he finally got healthy, he became a key part of the side. The forward had a run of four straight starts near the end of the campaign, and he grabbed his first goal for Chicago during this time.

These performances were enough for Madison to bring him on board at the start of 2022. Bartman hit the ground running, scoring a stoppage-time equalizer on opening day. He continued to be an important figure, grabbing five goals before the season was over.

Now he’ll look to get his first of this campaign. Chicago knows just how dangerous the South African can be in the final third. He’s quick on the ball, he knows what spaces to run into, and he can finish whatever chances fall his way. If they can’t keep him contained, then this match could be over before it even begins.

Hopefully Bartman remembers me, at least. 

(Quick note, he did not feature in Madison’s most recent contest, but I wasn’t able to find any information on a potential injury, so hopefully he’ll be all good to go for this contest)

AR Smith
Captain, leader, legend.

That’s what AR Smith has been for Chicago House, and he’ll look to add to his legacy on Tuesday night. 

He’s one of the club’s originals, signing for them all the way back in July of 2021. The attacker did not actually feature much for Chicago during their inaugural season in NISA, and he wasn’t involved at all for the final half of the campaign.

Smith decided to stick around, though, and it’s a good thing he did. Becoming the team’s captain this past year when they played in the Midwestern Premier League, he developed into a real leader, and he started to set the standard for all the new arrivals.

His presence has been absolutely vital during the House’s cup run. An ever-present in the starting lineup, the number 14 has brought calmness and composure to the team. He’s able to get on the ball a lot, dictating the pace of play depending on what’s needed. He can hold it, or he can burst forward depending on the situation.

His biggest contribution came in the final qualifying game, as he scored the equalizer against Brockton FC. It was a timely goal, and it set the table for Chicago’s eventual win in the shootout.

Smith will have to be at his very best if Chicago wants any chance of pulling off the remarkable upset. They won’t have a lot of the ball, which means that he’ll have to be smart on the few occasions he is in possession.

If he’s able to pick his spots like he usually does, though, then we could be in store for some magic. 

Last time out

This will be the first time the two sides have ever faced off.

How to watch

The match kicks off at 6 pm central time, and it will air live on the Forward Madison Youtube channel. 

What it means

Since it’s the Open Cup, there’s obviously going to be a bit more on the line than usual.

The House will be the protagonists on the night. They’re the ones that had to get through qualifying to get here. They’re the amateur side. They’re the ones that are dreaming.

In one aspect, simply getting to this stage is a dream in itself. There were worries that the club was going to completely fall apart when they were forced to leave the professional scene. Chicago stayed above water, though, and all their hard work has led to this. Now, they get to enjoy their day in the spotlight.

Then again, what if this isn’t the end of the road? Sure, they’ll be heavy underdogs, but they’ve been that before. Few expected them to qualify for the tournament, and even fewer expected them to win their 1st round contest. No one expects them to win here either.

That’s just how they like it. The House have proven that they can make things ugly, and in a single-elimination game like this, that is huge. They simply have to stay solid at the back and steal a goal up the other end at some stage. They don’t even need to do the latter, to be fair, as they know how to win a penalty shootout. 

The potential reward is massive. Not only would Chicago book their spot in the 3rd round, they’d secure a huge matchup against MLS outfit and fellow Windy City side the Chicago Fire. That contest would also take place at the House’s former home of SeatGeek Stadium.

The script almost writes itself.

Madison’s goal will be to rip that script up into a million tiny pieces. They don’t care about the House’s story, or the journey they took to get here. The Mingo’s only care about avoiding the upset and advancing to the next round of the tournament.

Since they are the favorites, the pressure will be on them to perform, especially since they’re at home. They can’t afford to fall to an amateur side. They can’t afford to slip up so early on in the tournament. They can’t afford to miss out on a huge away day.

Madison will also be looking forward to a potential matchup against the Fire, but for a different reason. They’ll fancy their chances in that game. Chicago’s not been the greatest MLS team in recent seasons, and even though they’ve made a promising start to this campaign, they’re still woefully inconsistent. Last year’s Open Cup tourney is an example of that, as they lost to Union Omaha at home.

The Mingo’s will hope that they can cause a similar upset in due time, adding a lucrative feather to their cap in the process. However, they can’t get to that stage until they beat the House. 

Whatever happens on the night, there will almost certainly be magic. It’s the cup after all.

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