Between the play-in matches and an opening-round game, the Chicago Fire have posted more victories in the 2011 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup (three) than they have during the MLS regular season (two).
Fire personnel have stated on more than a few occasions that they are taking this year's Open Cup seriously, and they hope to advance past the quarterfinals when they host their fellow MLS side New York Red Bulls on Tuesday at Toyota Park.
The Red Bulls and Fire are both coming off Saturday losses in MLS play. New York fell to D.C. United, 1-0, while Chicago suffered a 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Even though the Fire are coming off a loss to the Galaxy, the team was satisfied with the bulk of its play. Giving up two goals on set pieces ultimately marked the difference.
"I thought we kept to our game plan, but the game slipped away because of two set plays," Fire forward Cristian Nazarit said after the match. "But that is how soccer is. We have to continue working, because on Tuesday we have an important match."
The Fire edged the USL Pro's Rochester Rhinos, 1-0, in their previous Open Cup match on June 28 in Rochester, N.Y. In that match, the Fire went with a completely different defensive line than Chicago's previous MLS match against New York two days prior.
It would make sense for central defender Josip Mikulic to get some starting minutes Tuesday. Because of the red card Mikulic picked up while he was on the bench against L.A., that makes him unavailable for Chicago's match against the Portland Timbers on Saturday. It might be in the Fire's best interest to utilize his services Tuesday in place of veteran Cory Gibbs.
Fire left back Gonzalo Segares had to miss the Rochester match because of a red card he picked up during Chicago's play-in match against the San Jose Earthquakes on May 28. Segares should be an available option Tuesday.
The Red Bulls appear as though they will rest a large portion of their starting crew. That certainly was the vibe following last weekend's game against D.C.
"We have a week to get rested and get healthy again, and come out next weekend and hopefully get some more points," New York goalkeeper Greg Sutton told NewYorkRedBulls.com, without mention of the Open Cup.
The four-time Open Cup champion Fire hope to have a better showing than their last Open Cup match at Toyota Park. Last year, Chicago was shut out in penalty kicks, 3-0, against the Charleston Battery in its third-round match on June 29, 2010.