NAPERVILLE, Ill. (Tuesday, September 23, 2003) - After scoring three goals in a 14-minute span in the second half, the Chicago Fire held off a furious rally from the Los Angeles Galaxy to pull out a 3-2 victory in front of 5,327 fans at Cardinal Stadium and advance to its third Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup championship match in its six-year history. The Fire used goals by midfielder DaMarcus Beasley and the forward tandem of Damani Ralph and Ante Razov. Late goals by Los Angeles's Alejandro Moreno and Arturo Torres sliced the deficit to one, but Los Angeles managed just one shot in the final nine minutes and finished the match a man down after defender Hong Myung-Bo picked up a red card on a poor challenge against Beasley in second half added time.
"We are very excited to be in the finals of the Open Cup - that was our goal from the start in the preseason and now we're at the point where we've earned our way to the final," said Fire Head Coach Dave Sarachan. "Tonight was a very good effort on our part right from the start. The energy, approach towards the game and the mindset were good. The best remedy for our performance last Saturday was a game like tonight."
The first half began at a quick pace, with Razov and Ralph leading the charge. However, Los Angeles goalkeeper Kevin Hartman was equal to the task, as the veteran netminder registered four saves to keep Chicago off the board in the first stanza. Fire goalkeeper Zach Thornton stopped three shots of his own in the first 45 minutes to send the match into halftime scoreless.
The match opened up with the second half whistle, and it was the Fire that would appear to put the match safely away in the first 25 minutes of the half with a three-goal barrage that was started by Beasley in the 55th minute. Ralph had room on the left flank and crossed the ball towards the top of the 18-yard box that found Beasley on one hop. The streaking midfielder struck it first-time to beat a helpless Hartman to score his second goal of this year's Open Cup tournament and put the Fire on top 1-0.
Ralph would get the favor returned to him eight minutes later in the 63rd minute when midfielder Evan Whitfield sent in a cross from the right flank. The rookie striker redirected the pass from six yards out towards the left post and past Hartman to double the Fire lead. Just six minutes later the Fire appeared to cement a victory as Razov scored what would prove to be the game-winner. After collecting the ball 75 yards from goal, Beasley sent a through ball over the defense and into the path of an onrushing Razov, who took the ball into the penalty area and slotted a shot high into the back of the net for his second goal of the tournament and a 3-0 Chicago lead.
Los Angeles failed to go down without a fight, as Moreno would tally in the 73rd minute against the run of play. With the Fire pressuring goal again, the Galaxy went on a counter-attack that was sprung when midfielder Simon Elliott played a long pass up the middle of the field that found a streaking Moreno, who beat Thornton one-on-one to make the score 3-1. Two minutes later it would be Torres finishing off a loose ball in the area to close the gap to 3-2. Galaxy defender Hong Myung Bo sent in a free kick that was mis-hit by forward Carlos Ruiz but found the foot of Torres, who finished the chance to bring the Fire lead back to one.
The match would end precariously for the Fire, as Beasley - who suffered six fouls on the evening - was taken down by Bo on a nasty challenge that would see Beasley remain on the ground for minutes and Bo sent to the locker room early after receiving a straight red card for the offense.
The Fire will move on to the championship match of the 90th edition of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and will face the winner of the D.C. United - MetroStars semifinal contest, to be hosted by the Metros next Wednesday, Oct. 1 at Yurcak Field in Piscataway, NJ at 6:30 p.m. CT. U.S. Soccer will announce the site and time of the final, to be played on Oct. 15, in the near future. The Fire will return to MLS play next Wednesday, Oct. 1 to take on the Colorado Rapids at INVESCO Field (8:30 p.m. CT, Fox Sports Net).
Goals by Period 1 2 Tot
L.A. Galaxy 0 2 2
Chicago Fire 0 3 3
CHI - DaMarcus Beasley 2 (Damani Ralph 1) 55
CHI - Damani Ralph 1 (Evan Whitfield 1) 63
CHI - Ante Razov 2 (DaMarcus Beasley 1) 69
LA - Alejandro Moreno (Simon Elliott) 73
LA - Arturo Torres (unassisted) 75
Los Angeles Galaxy - GK-Kevin Hartman, D-Danny Califf (Ryan Suarez 66),
D-Tyrone Marshall, D-Hong Myung-Bo, M-Chris Albright (Antonio Martinez 74),
M-Mauricio Cienfuegos (Arturo Torres 64), M-Simon Elliott, M-Cobi Jones
(Capt.), M-Peter Vagenas, F-Alejandro Moreno, F-Carlos Ruiz.
TOTAL SHOTS: 13 (Albright, Ruiz 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 6 (Moreno, Ruiz 2);
FOULS: 18 (Bo 5); OFFSIDES: 2 (Elliott, Ruiz); CORNER KICKS: 5 (Jones 3);
SAVES: Hartman 7.
Chicago Fire - GK-Zach Thornton, D-Kelly Gray, D-Jim Curtin, D-Carlos
Bocanegra, D-Orlando Perez, M-Evan Whitfield, M-Chris Armas (Capt.), M-Jesse
Marsch, M-DaMarcus Beasley (Logan Pause 92+), F-Damani Ralph, F-Ante Razov.
TOTAL SHOTS: 24 (Ralph, Razov 7); SHOTS ON GOAL: 11 (Ralph 5); FOULS: 12
(Marsch, Razov 3); OFFSIDES: 4 (Beasley 2); CORNER KICKS: 3 (Razov 2);
SAVES: Thornton 3.
LA - Peter Vagenas (caution; pushing, holding) 18
LA - Hong Myung-Bo (caution; persistent infringement) 60
LA - Hong Myung-Bo (ejection; reckless foul) 91+
LA - Antonio Martinez (caution; reckless foul) 92+
Referee: Gus St. Silva
Referee's Assistants: Steven Davidson, Francisco Sanchez
4th Official: Ricardo Salazar
Time of Game: 1:51
Release courtesy of the Chicago Fire. For more information on the Fire, visit: www.chicago-fire.com