A certain buzz of anticipation was expected upon arrival at Lindenwood University. But there simply couldn’t have been a feeling that would have been predicted by any one of the thousands of people that attended the match. The US Open Cup often brings about surprises, but there are many things that simply couldn’t have been fathomable from the beginning. Playing on a football field, half an hour away from the regular stadium against a team from the top division in US soccer. But as all things, it’s not all that meets the eye. The night that would be transpiring would soon be etched into the memories of all who would be in attendance (4456 in total!)
Check out the PHOTO GALLERY for Chicago Fire at Saint Louis FC
The first half started as one would have envisioned. Maintained pressure from Chicago Fire in the opening minutes saw what looked to be an eventual breakthrough. Tomas Gomez making a triple save in the opening minutes kept STLFC’s head above water, but the pressure was only beginning. Sam Fink appeared as a deer in headlights in the opening seconds. But in this game, in this competition, everything can change in an instant.
And in the most beautiful of counter attacks, the match was flipped on its head.
In the 17th minute, Lewis Hilton received the ball and instantly found Russell Cicerone on the left. Cicerone needed only a glance up to find the short figure of Austin Martz, who had gotten in front Chicago’s Raheem Edwards. The cross came in, and with the most graceful of flicks of the head, Martz placed it past Kenneth Kronholm. A moment of pure jubilation, the hosts found themselves ahead against the side from the top division.
But wait, there’s more.
It took only four minutes for another chance to arise for the underdogs. A freekick from about 35 yards out was stood over by Hilton and Cicerone, and a player with his precision doesn’t often need to be asked more than once to find the perfect spot. Seemingly in slow motion, Hilton lifted in his cross to find the head of Guy Abend, who was all alone due to poor defending from the away side. In dreamland, St. Louis FC found themselves 2-0 up against Chicago Fire.
In a time of pure fantasy, the hosts went into the halftime interval with two goals to the good.
It all seemed rosy for the hosts. Nothing seemed able to go wrong. That was until the 71st minute, when Djordje Mihailovic went into the box and was tripped by Bradley Kamdem Fewo, prompting the referee to point to the spot. The subsequent shot was put unstoppably into the top corner by Nemanja Nikolic, and things suddenly weren’t as peaceful as they once seemed. With a 2-1 match, all the chips were on the table.
Nervousness set in. Chicago began to pound on the door. But this was a night that wouldn’t be stolen away. The team was never going to let this opportunity slip. The night would not be taken from this team.
On nights like this, the atmosphere takes the team to the next level. There are rarely nights that encapsulate the spirit of the game in this modern era of massive transfers, greedy agents and super clubs, but these are the times that one remembers the days of football past. These are the days that go down in folklore. These are the days that are remembered with the most legendary moments for a lower league club.
The match finished 2-1. For the first time in club history, STLFC will be competing in the Round of 16. One wouldn’t be out of place seeing tears drip down the faces of fans that have been waiting for a moment for the entirety of the club’s existence. These moments are what make soccer, soccer. These are the moments that make the Open Cup the greatest American soccer competition.
— Saint Louis FC (@SaintLouisFC) June 12, 2019
— U.S. Open Cup (@opencup) June 12, 2019
— LU Women's Soccer (@LULionSoccer) June 12, 2019
— David Carson (@PDPJ) June 12, 2019
Game report by the Godfather Joe Lyons STLFC Shocks Fire
— soccerSTL (@SoccerSTL) June 11, 2019
STLFC Starting XI (4-3-3): Gomez; Bahner, Fink ©, Kavita, Gee; Umar, Hilton, Abend; Cicerone, Dikwa, Martz
STLFC Bench: Fenlason; Reynolds, Kamdem Fewo; Keller, Vlastos, Dacres, Calvert
Chicago Fire Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Kronholm; Marcelo, Kappelhof, Campos, Edwards; Mihailovic, McCarty ©; Herbers, Gaitan, Sapong; Nikolic
Chicago Fire Bench: Sanchez; Lillard, Corrales; Gutjar, Bronico, Martinez, Moreno