0

Chicago Fire and Orlando City Have Score to Settle in Open Cup Quarterfinal

The lone Quarterfinal match of the 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup where the two opponents have met before in the competition is also the final one of the round.


When the Chicago Fire welcome Orlando City SC to Toyota Park on Wednesday night, they’ll hope to conjure up memories from their 5-1 home victory against the USL version of the Lions two years ago. The Fire were the only MLS team to meet a club from Division III in the Quarterfinals that year, albeit one that downed the Colorado Rapids and Sporting KC in back-to-back rounds to get to that point.

And though the score line did end up lopsided, the reigning USL champs stood even with the Fire as late as the 59th minute of the match when Patrick Nyarko scored what stood as the game-winner.

“I clearly remember that game,” Nyarko told ussoccer.com. “They came out firing. We scored first, but they equalized. I wasn’t surprised they scored with the way they were playing, but it woke us up. We knew this team was not to be played or toyed with and we needed to buckle it up and go from there.”

Four minutes after Nyarko scored, Fire forward Chris Rolfe made it 3-1 and soon after, Orlando saw defender Yann Songo’o sent off, allowing the flood gates to open. Mike Magee tallied in the 83rd minute before City’s Adama Mbengue also saw red. Joel Lindpere finished off the scoring late to end the route.

Still, Orlando City head coach Adrian Heath said he and his then lower-league side did take pride in the way they played their MLS opponent.

 “My memory is that we were excellent on the night,” Heath told ussoccer.com “I think [then Chicago Fire head coach] Frank Klopas at the time said the score line didn’t reflect anywhere near what the game was. At one point, Dom Dwyer had a great chance to make it 2-1, then we get a man sent off and kind of fall off. It was a terrific performance by the group on the night, as much as the performance looks like we took a pounding, it wasn’t like that.”

Both teams have changed dramatically since then, with Orlando City upgrading its roster with the likes of Kaka, Brek Shea and Carlos Rivas for their move to MLS this season, while the Fire have undergone a two-season makeover – Nyarko is one of just five players left on the roster from the end of the 2013 season.


Brazilian striker Kaka has helped guide Orlando City SC to an auspicious start in its first season as an MLS club.

With the changes, the more immediate history went in Orlando’s favor, as the Lions used two goals inside the final eight minutes to earn an impressive 3-2 comeback victory on June 6 at Toyota Park. The match was one of a few stinging home results that have contributed to the Fire’s bottom position in the MLS Eastern Conference and head coach Frank Yallop admitted he’ll use the memory of that result as motivation for Wednesday contest.

“It’s a motivating factor,” Yallop told reporters this week. “Obviously it’s a game I feel we should have gotten more out of. They scored two late goals to win and we had a great chance at 2-1 to win and we didn’t. I think we played well enough to win that match, but that’s gone now. For us, it’s a big tournament we want to win. I know the tradition here at this club, get a good result on Wednesday and a good result on the weekend. It’s a massive game for us, I want to win it badly and we make sure the players know how important it is.”

Indeed, the Fire were one of the first MLS clubs to truly embrace the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, winning their first of an MLS record four Open Cups five days after lifting the MLS Cup in their inaugural 1998 season. More recently Seattle Sounders FC carried the banner of MLS expansion club that saw the value early Open Cup success could bring and now new MLS side Orlando is following the example both clubs set in their first year in the American topflight.

One of the things we spoke about before – we had a good chat with the staff and ownership group – we wanted to make the Open Cup something we took seriously from the very beginning,” Heath continued. “We had some difficulty in the first round at the Charleston Battery. We played a lot of the younger guys and it was difficult all around but it was still a team I thought was going to win the game. It didn’t always go according to plan, but obviously we tied 4-4 and got through on penalties. The second game with Columbus Crew we scored a couple of really good goals at important times and sort of cruised to the win to get here.”

One of those well-timed goals came from Kaka, who Heath says refused to take a day off when the side hosted Crew SC in the Round of 16 on June 30.  

“Leading up to that, he’d played virtually every minute of every game and I asked him if he needed a rest. He said, ‘No, no. I want to play.’ Barring any mishaps this weekend, he will probably play on Wednesday evening. He knows what the goal is here – it’s five wins and you can lift a trophy. Five games and you can be in the CONCACAF Champions League. As a new club we’re trying to grow and make sure people are aware of who we are and that’s one of the things the Open Cup can give you. From Kaka on down, we’re on the same page about what we want to accomplish.”

While a look at the league table might give a slight edge to Orlando, the Fire’s 23-1-1 all-time U.S. Open Cup record when playing in Illinois will certainly be daunting. As well the fact that Nyarko, who was in the final stages of recovery from ACL surgery, missed the June 6 loss to Orlando City.


Chicago Fire forward Mike Magee hoists teammate Patrick Nyarko over his shoulder to celebrate scoring against the Charlotte Independence in the Round of 16.

The tricky Ghanaian attacker’s return to the field came in the team’s Round of 16 match against the Charlotte Independence on June 30. Entering the 77th minute, Nyarko made an immediate impact with one of his first touches, splitting two Charlotte defenders to gain entry to the box before centering for Magee who buried his second of the night in the 82nd minute.

“Personally, I’ve never been more nervous as I was in that situation in the days leading up to the game and when I was coming on,” Nyarko said. “When you get that kind of injury, you really question yourself: Can I get back? Can I be myself once I’m back? If nothing else, it settled me down, made me realize I could still play and do the things I used to be able to. More than anything, I was excited to be back playing the game again.”

Nyarko replicated his form in his first MLS match back, scoring a 72nd minute equalizer to help the Fire to a 1-1 draw at the Houston Dynamo on July 3. The Ghanaian’s return to the lineup, combined with Designated Players David Accam and Shaun Maloney looking likely to play a part Wednesday vs. Orlando, should make the match a competitive one. After two straight league losses, Nyarko, who’s currently the longest serving player on the Fire roster, hopes a win and a trip to the U.S. Open Cup Semifinals next month can help spark the season like it has in the recent past.

“I keep mentioning to the guys – this isn’t unusual for us to have a slow start and a subpar first half of the season,” Nyarko said. “Right around when the Open Cup starts, it’s when we start picking it up. It’s almost like a tradition for the Fire faithful. We don’t want it to be that way, but it’s a part of us. An Open Cup wins reinvigorates the guys and the team and hopefully kicks off a run to the playoffs. I’m glad we’re in it, it’s something to really play for, something that matters to all of us.”


US Soccer

Sigi Schmid: A Coach, A Teacher, A Gentleman, A Friend

Touching tributes poured in on social media from all corners of the soccer community as news spread that Hall of Fame coach Sigi Schmid had passed away on Christmas Day 2018. And amid the sadness shared by so many who knew him, the messages also provided the rest of us a glimpse into the kind of man that Sigi was, and reminded everyone of the influence Sigi had on the American soccer landscape.

For newer fans of the game, Sigi will be remembered as one of the greatest of MLS coaches, leading the Columbus Crew, Seattle Sounders and LA Galaxy to multiple trophies each. Older fans may recall the soccer factory he created while coaching UCLA to numerous NCAA Championships in the 1980 and ‘90s, churning out future U.S. Soccer legends like Cobi Jones, Brad Friedel, Paul Caligiuri, Joe Max-Moore, Frankie Hejduk, Eddie Lewis and Chris Henderson, among others.

Sigi Schmid

It’s also important to highlight the impact he had with two teams he coached for shorter time frames: the U.S. U-20 MNTs that participated in the 1999 and 2005 FIFA U-20 World Youth Championships, each time advancing to the knockout stage while facing the likes of Argentina, England, Germany, Spain and Italy.

Seven players from those U-20 teams would go on to represent the MNT at senior FIFA World Cups, while many others also had solid pro careers. And if not for Schmid, we may never have known some of those players. We caught up with a few from each team:

===================

1999 FIFA U-20 World Cup Championship:

While at UCLA, Sigi also assisted the MNT at 1994 FIFA World Cup and coached the following year’s Pan-American Games. In 1997, he was also coaching the U-18 MNT when he went to scout a player who had just played in the U-17 FIFA World Youth Championship and was playing for his high school in Southern California. However, as Carlos Bocanegra tells it, there was a mistake on the published schedule and the team that Sigi went to see was not playing. Sigi stuck around anyway, and watched the promising football wide receiver, Bocanegra, play soccer for his Alta Loma High School.

“I think about that all the time,” the two-time World Cup veteran Bocanegra told ussoccer.com this week. “That was my break. That was my chance. He gave me the opportunity and I was able to take that opportunity. That’s how I was able to kick-start my soccer career – pure coincidence that he was watching my game that got mixed up and he saw me play.”

Schmid invited Bocanegra, a junior at the time, to a U-18 camp. The next year he continued his pursuit of the talented defender and recruited Bocanegra to join him at UCLA. Their bond strengthened when Schmid took over the U-20 MNT and made Bocanegra a key member of the USA’s 1999 FIFA World Youth Championship side in Nigeria.

That team also included fellow future senior World Cup players Tim Howard, Steve Cherundolo, Nick Rimando and Chris Albright, as well as long-time pros Danny Califf, Nick Garcia, Cory Gibbs, John Thorrington and Taylor Twellman, who became one of the most prolific American goalscorers in the pro ranks.

“That World Cup, playing with Sigi, had a massive impact on me and ultimately convinced me that I needed to go pro,” said Twellman, who at the time was also contemplating if his future would be in baseball, where he also excelled.

At the tournament, the USA defeated an England side that featured Ashley Cole and Peter Crouch, fell to Shinji Ono’s Japan, and defeated Cameroon in group play before falling by a score of 3-2 in the Round of 16 to eventual champions Spain that included Iker Casillas and Xavi.

In the lead up to that tournament, Sigi broke from the past and brought the team overseas for training, including to Morocco for two games and on a two-week fitness camp in Germany, where the team stayed at a bed-and-breakfast.


Bocanegra in action vs. Argentina in 2003, a few short years after graduating from Schmid's tutelage. 

“He really tried to give us good experiences that he thought would help us later in our career,” said Bocanegra. “He always tried to set trips up around where we could watch games at a higher level and get experiences to challenge ourselves in different ways than was maybe common practice. He always wanted the best for the group and to give us the best experiences to try to better ourselves, not only on the field but in life and to become well-rounded in the game.”

As a reward for the hard work in Germany, Sigi brought the U20s to France to attend the 1998 World Cup match between the USA and Germany.

“Sigi had such a feel for the game of soccer, domestically and globally,” said Chris Albright. “He always communicated that we were putting on our nations colors and flag, representing the country. He drilled that in us that this was not to take it for granted, that it was not to be taken lightly.”

Like Bocanegra, Sigi introduced Albright to the National Team scene. Later he helped pick him up when things were not going well at D.C., trading for him in LA. At the suggestion of then MNT coach Bruce Arena, Sigi helped convert Albright from a forward into a defender, a move that later landed Chris on the 2006 World Cup team.

“He had an excellent ability to teach multiple positions; he could make me a better forward, wide midfielder, defender,” Albright said. “He could teach principles of different positions to help each player grow, and that teaching element in developing us at that time was unique.”

Twellman scored four goals in the tournament, good for third overall, thus becoming the first American to capture a scoring award (Bronze Boot) in a FIFA World Youth Championship.


Twellman accepts the Bronze Boot alongside then U.S. Soccer president Dr. Robert S. Contiguglia.

“When people talk about Sigi, they talk about his love of the game,” Twellman said, who a few months later would leave Maryland to sign with 1860 Munich in Germany. “But he was also a gentleman and was kind off the field. Every single one of us on that team, if we saw Sigi 3-4-5-10 years down the road…he always watched our games, even when he was not our coach. He was always willing to talk to us, showed interested in us, asked us about our lives.”

Now the Technical Director of MLS Cup champion Atlanta United, Bocanegra draws from those early experiences under Schmid.

“Even though we were young, he really tried to instill the professionalism in us,” Bocanegra said. “The detail, structure, organization – challenging us. He always made time to make people feel important. He never stopped, through college, through pros, was always available. He was pretty special.”

==============

2005 Under-20 World Youth Championship

A week after that 1999 U-20 tournament came to an end for the USA, Sigi also began his pro career, taking the helm of his hometown LA Galaxy for the next five seasons.

He returned to coach the  U-20 MNT in October 2014, having only a couple months to scout and prep players for January’s U-20 Concacaf Championship.

Two years earlier, Schmid’s Galaxy had eliminated Kansas City and veteran National Team player Peter Vermes from the MLS Cup Playoffs. After the game, Vermes recalled this week, Schmid approached him and told him he’d like to have him on his staff one day.

Fast-forward to fall 2014, a since-retired Vermes called Sigi and reminded him of that conversation. Schmid held true and invited Vermes to a three-week U-20 camp. After a week of evaluating, Schmid told Vermes he had earned one of the assistant coach positions.

“It was a great opportunity for me just to be around somebody like him with as much knowledge and experience that he had,” Vermes said, who enters the 2019 season as the longest tenured MLS coach, having taken the reigns of Sporting KC in 2009. “I already knew I wanted to coach for a long time, but what those experiences give you is like anything – when you first want to do something, you’re excited, you’re ambitious, you’re motivated, you’re all those things. But sometimes you lack the confidence. For me, Sigi gave me a direction that I felt comfortable with because I had gotten a chance to see a lot of different things that I wouldn’t have if I didn’t get that chance to be with him and spend all that time, and the preparation, and everything. It was a great experience.”

Schmid’s first friendly was in November in Ft. Lauderdale. Due to College Cup, some would-be regulars were not available, so Schmid called in four new players, including UCLA speedster Marvell Wynne, who had never been called to any YNT camp before.

“I think I should have been more in the moment with everything that happened,” Wynne admits. “When I got called in I remember thinking ‘these guys are way better than me.’ But Sigi kept calling me back. When he said I made the team, I was definitely shocked.”

For a mid-December camp Schmid called in 30 players, including UCLA walk-on midfielder Benny Feilhaber, who also had never been on any Youth National Team. Like Wynne, Feilhaber also made a formidable impression.

Wynne and Feilhaber were instrumental in helping the USA qualify for the

2005 FIFA U-20 World Youth Championship three weeks later.

Let’s back up for a second. Sigi’s sons also played college soccer in the LA area around that era. And, family man that he was, he would always attend their games, first Kurt’s at UCLA, and later Kyle’s at UC-Irvine.

“It’s what jump-started my entire career,” said newly retired 12-year pro Brad Evans. “The only reason I made that U-20 team is because Kyle Schmid transferred to UC Irvine. Without Kyle transferring there was absolutely no reason for Sigi to come watch UCI play.”

Schmid had spotted Evans that fall at UCI, but it wasn’t until after the U-20s had qualified for the World Cup that he called in the versatile player to his first National Team camp at any level.   

Vermes explained how Sigi gave the preliminary roster to rest of the coaching staff and told them that they could each make a case for one player to either be replaced or be added. 

“A lot of guys in that position would never consult the rest of staff,” Vermes said. “I thought that showed a lot of security and confidence on his part, to know what his decisions were but also want to know what his staff’s decisions were, and ultimately to make the best decision. There’s no doubt that that has helped me, and I would say that a lot of the players that were identified are players that are still playing or who had great careers because they were identified correctly.”

Wynne, Feilhaber and Evans were on the final 21-player roster, along with Jonathan Spector, Sacha Kljestan, Lee Nguyen, Freddy Adu, Chad Barret and Eddie Gaven, among others who also had solid pro careers.

The team shocked the world in the tournament opener, defeating Argentina 1-0 thanks to a Barrett goal assisted by Wynne. It would be the only loss and shutout suffered by the South Americans, who won their next six matches en route the lifting the championship trophy with future international stars Sergio Aguero, Lucas Biglia, Pablo Zabaleta, Fernando Gago and Golden Ball and Golden Boot winner, Lionel Messi.

2005 U-20 MNT vs. Argentina
2005 U-20 MNT vs. Argentina
2005 U-20 MNT vs. Argentina
2005 U-20 MNT vs. Argentina
2005 U-20 MNT vs. Argentina
Chad Barrett, who would go on to play professionally under Schmid in MLS, scored the game-winner vs. Argentina at the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship.

The 20s then played Germany to a scoreless draw and defeated Egypt 1-0 before losing 3-1 to Italy in the Round of 16. The experience and exposure provided opportunities to a number of players.

Feilhaber would soon sign with Hamburg, and later would score one of the best goals of the USA’s rivalry against Mexico, helping the MNT win the 2007 Gold Cup. And despite interest from international clubs, Wynne and Evans returned to school. Wynne became the top pick in the next MLS SuperDraft and Evans was selected 15th overall the following year by Columbus’s new coach, Sigi Schmid.

“He means more than I can really describe,” Feilhaber said, who along with Spector also made the 2010 FIFA World Cup roster. “Getting that opportunity with the 20s led to everything else in my life. I have no idea if I would have become a pro. I know I would not have been as successful financially, [and] going to Europe that early helped me immensely as a player. I don’t know if I would have ever played on the National Team let alone in a World Cup. I’m really grateful for Sigi having that keen eye and for giving me that opportunity.”

Sigi not only gave Evans his international debut and professional debut but would also bring him to Seattle on their way to spending 10 pro seasons together.

“He was the pivot for me in my entire career,” Evans said. “You have youth coaches, parents, but if you want to talk about the person who I’m able to talk about 12 years later and say I played professionally because of them…yes, it comes from within, but you have to have someone who pushes you and really believed in you, and Sigi was the guy for me.”

========

REFLECTIONS:

Sigi’s memorial took place on Friday, Jan. 18 in Los Angeles.

In March 2017, after more than 300 MLS games and having also represented the USA in the 2008 Olympics and 2009 Confederations Cup, Wynne’s career came to an end after undergoing a heart procedure.

When he came to from the operation, one of the first voicemails he listened to was from Sigi Schmid.

“Sigi was the reason I became a pro,” Wynne said. “He got me on to the scene, kept me there, had confidence in me and he kept me going. In terms of coaching, it was more, ‘get the basics right and perfect them.’ He was the first one to hammer that home, and if you ever saw my career, it was basic.”

A reflective Wynne made a special trip to an LA Galaxy game last year to meet up with his former coach.

“We talked about my heart situation, and caught up about everything,” Wynne said. “And I told him, ‘you’re the reason I went pro.’ I was able to tell him face to face, but I hoped he knew.”

---------

“Yea, the opportunity, experience and all those other things were great, but the best thing for me, to be honest, was that he and I became friends after that 2005 Youth Championship,” Vermes said. “We always, always talked and kept in touch and spent time with each other. We had a very good relationship.”

---------

“I sense that he knew what he meant to me,” Feilhaber said. “The way that we spoke was not in a way that most coaches to ex-players do. We were friends - he understood how much of an influence he had on me. We had respect for each other, and I’m going to miss him a lot, but it’s so important to have these memories about him.”

---------

“We talk about a coaching tree a lot, but Sigi’s got the player tree, the coaching tree, the soccer tree really,” Bocanegra said. “So many people spiraled off the opportunities he gave them. Through soccer he gave so many people their start. But the biggest part that everybody remembers is that he cared about each and every person. He wanted to get the best out of them, and did not give up. He would give second chances, third chances - if you were his guys, and you worked for him he was going to his damndest to get the best out of you and make you a better player or person in general.”

---------

“When I think back on it, especially the last couple of weeks, we always talked about getting the ‘Sigi shirt-tug,’” Evans reminisced. “Once he got a hold of your shirt and put his arm around you, there was no getting away from it. But I remember him being very honest with me in everything. He never blew smoke up my tail or thought that I was better or worse than I was. He always believed in me. We really trusted each other when it came to soccer and had an unspoken relationship that just worked. It’s something that I’ll cherish and remember forever.”

Read more
U-20 MNT Jan 18, 2019
×