By TYLER DAY
The Mike Magee era began just as scripted for the Chicago Fire.
The Windy City native took only 11 minutes to score for his new club, leading the Fire to a 2-0 win at the Charlotte Eagles in the teams third round match in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Fire defender Gonzalo Segares served an early cross into the box and Magee calmly headed it into the net to give the Fire a 1-0 lead over the USL Pro side at Winthrop University in Charlotte.
Magee combined with Dilly Duka, Patrick Nyarko, and others all night to create a potent attack that has been absent for much of the season for the Fire. He made his presence felt again in the 57th minute when he connected on an assist to Chris Rolfe, who blasted a shot into the left corner of the net to make it 2-0 for the Fire. It was Rolfe’s first ever U.S. Open Cup goal as a member of Chicago’s first team.
Backup Fire goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi, playing in place of USMNT call-up Sean Johnson, impressed as well, coming off his line multiple times to preserve the shutout. Charlotte goalkeeper Eric Reed kept the Eagles in the game much of the night, including magnificent stops on chances from Duka and another from Magee.
But the revamped back line of Chicago, including the return of Bakary Soumare to partner with Austin Berry, proved too stout for Eagles’ attack.
While other MLS sides sent out less than first-choice sides in this round, Fire head coach Frank Klopas promised all week he would start his first team at Charlotte.
“It’s a big tournament and since the club’s inception we’ve tried to win it, we’ve tried to win trophies,” Klopas said. “We’ve had success in the last decade and a half and you don’t go into any game taking any of these teams lightly.”
Klopas not only started most of his first team, but also showed his newfound depth by bringing Jeff Larentowicz, Joel Lindpere, and Sherjill MacDonald on as second half substitutes. Chicago is looking for its fifth U.S. Open Cup win, which would tie the record held by Maccabi Los Angeles and Bethlehem Steel. The team was last in the Cup Finals in 2011.
Wednesday’s win means the Fire will host the Columbus Crew on June 12 at Toyota Park in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup. The Crew dispatched the Dayton Dutch Lions (USL Pro) Wednesday night with a late goal from Justin Meram to set up the matchup between the conference rivals.
Magee and the Fire will get their next chance to shine when they return to MLS action Sunday afternoon at home against D.C. United. With Magee and fellow newcomer Bakary Soumare, the Fire stand poised to kickstart their season and make a charge up the Eastern Conference standings.
“We’re trying to catch Philly…and we have two games in hand,” Magee told reporters Monday. “We have to start getting some points. It’s still a very young season. Even watching the guys, they played well and things aren’t going their way. Little finishes and they’re getting punished for all their mistakes and sometimes that’s how it goes. We’ll get it right.”