August 10, 2016
By Jeffrey Krause
Fire's Cup campaign stalls in semis
Chicagoland Soccer News Contributor
The Chicago Fire hoped to make its seventh Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final on Tuesday night as it took on the New England Revolution. But the Fire’s fourth consecutive semifinal appearance ended as the previous three did, the Revolution getting goals from Kei Kamara, Je-Vaughn Watson and Teal Bunbury to propel them past the Fire by a score of 3-1 in Foxborough, Mass.
The Chicago Fire hoped to make their seventh Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final on Tuesday night as they took on the New England Revolution. But the Fire’s fourth consecutive semifinal appearance ended as the previous three did, the Revolution getting goals from Kei Kamara, Je-Vaughn Watson and Teal Bunbury to propel them past the Fire by a score of 3-1 in Foxborough, Mass.
Chicago never looked comfortable, and by the 70th minute the team seemed out of ideas and listless while chasing an equalizing goal.
New England got on the board in the 16th minute after a penalty was called on Rodrigo Ramos, Kamara converting. Chicago came back with a goal in the 40th minute from David Accam. However, the Revolution took the lead again just two minutes later on a Watson header that was poorly defended.
New England put the game out of reach in the 85th minute with Bunbury’s goal, despite the game being all but over for a Fire team that seemingly had given up well before. While the Fire came out improved in the second half and seemed to initially respond well to going down a goal right before halftime, the team lacked creativity in the attacking half, an issue that has plagued it in league play this season.
“This is the best we can do at this point, but we will work hard and we will come back next year,” Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said after the game. “We believe being a better team and more competitive and most of all, we want to have another final and play to win.”
While the Fire have made four consecutive USOC semifinal appearances, the team has struggled in league play. Chicago has made only one playoff appearance since 2010, and its run in Open Cup play has typically featured lower division sides, as well as reserve-heavy MLS competition, allowing it to charge forward in tournament play. As in previous years, Chicago did not have the tactical response or the personnel necessary to advance to the final.
“I think we have to be honest, we are a young team and we commit too many innocent mistakes, which I always address with our staff and lockerroom and it's something that we're aware of, but we have to grow up,” Paunovic said. “We have to grow up in this league and this competition just doesn't give you too much time for that. You have to react in the next game and I think the pace of the competition and the pace of how well we grow, it's not the same pace. I think we are behind, but that's the part of the process."
The Fire will now turn attention to league play. With a record of 4-11-6 and sitting in 10th in the Eastern Conference, it’s not likely the team will make a playoff run, essentially making the last 2 ½ months of the 2016 season an audition for 2017, as Chicago continues to rebuild, while spinning its wheels with the same issues, despite a seemingly constant rotation of personnel.