Photo by Tracy Allen/ISIphotos.com
By ANTHONY ZILIS
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — New York Red Bulls manager Hans Backe just didn’t seem to care about the U.S. Open Cup – at least not on Tuesday, when his team played the Chicago Fire in its fourth of nine games in July.
Backe sent mostly reserve players to Toyota Park for the quarterfinals of the tournament, and the full-strength Fire trounced their Eastern Conference foes, 4-0, behind two goals from Orr Barouch, and tallies from Dominic Oduro and Yamith Cuesta. The Fire will play either Sporting Kansas City or the Richmond Kickers in the semifinals.
Mehdi Ballouchy and Bouna Coundoul were the only players who suited up for the Red Bulls that could be considered starters. The most telling sign that Backe may have overlooked the game, though, was that he wasn’t even there.
Though Chicago coach Frank Klopas didn't offer any comment on the matter, the Fire players definitely had it on their minds.
"We took it personally," Fire midfielder Patrick Nyarko said. "Before the game we talked about punishing this team, beating them 5-0."
Chicago came out firing, as Oduro barely missed scoring 40 seconds into the game, which was moved back from 7:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., locally, after storms caused power outages in the area.
The speedy Oduro opened the scoring in the seventh minute when he scored off of a Marco Pappa through ball. The Fire had chance after chance in the first half as the Red Bulls played a compact, conservative style. Chicago couldn't score again in half, though, and Ballouchy nearly tied it when his low shot squeaked past the post in in the 42nd minute.
Barouch came on in the second half and provided the finishing touch the Fire needed to seal the easy victory.
Klopas has been encouraged by Barouch's recent play, and he should figure in to a complicated battle for the starting forward spot, along with Oduro, Diego Chaves and Cristian Nazarit.
"He's a young player that is going to improve," Klopas said. "He has the right tools, but most importantly, he has the right attitude. In games he finds himself in good spots. He wins the ball, he makes good runs, he's smart. In every game he's played, he's made an impact."
The Open Cup has almost always been a priority for the Fire, who have won the tournament four times. Klopas came out with his regular starting lineup aside from defender Cory Gibbs, who missed the game with food poisoning.
Even Nyarko started after he picked up an injury in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy.
"Frank didn't want to take any chances, so he decided to play his strongest squad," Nyarko said.
The Fire have won twice as many wins in Open Cup play (four) as they have in the MLS regular season (two). Still, Oduro doesn’t think the win can do anything but good for them as they make a push for the playoffs.
"We have confidence going forward, getting into the semifinal," Oduro said. "It doesn’t matter who you put on the field, it gives you confidence."
After the game, Klopas said to expect a player announcement soon. He didn’t elaborate further. … Nyarko said he should be at about 80 or 90 percent for Saturday’s game against Portland. Nyarko was hurt Saturday when Chris Birchall took him out with a hard tackle at the end with only minutes remaining in the game. "It wasn't the tackle. I got hit pretty bad, but I fell pretty awkwardly so the bone on the outside of my knee has been hurting," he said.