Fire look to alter recent Open Cup fortunes

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- The Chicago Fire have had their shining moments in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup -- the MLS and U.S. Open Cup "double" of 1998, three other Open Cup crowns in 2000, 2003 and 2006, and a respectable runner-up finish in 2004.

Last season was not one of those Open Cup moments the Fire would like to remember. Chicago lost to the United Soccer League Second Division's Wilmington Hammerheads, 1-0, and for the second time in three years the Fire made an immediate exit from the Open Cup tournament.

The Fire hope to avoid that outcome when they host the USL-2's Charleston Battery at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Toyota Park.

The Fire and Battery face off for only the second time in history. That lone meeting was in the 2004 Open Cup quarterfinals, when Chicago topped Charleston, 1-0, to reach the semis.

Chicago has a 25-8-2 record in Open Cup play. But the Fire have a tough challenge ahead of them with little rest following a 1-0 road victory over the New England Revolution on Sunday. They also have a banged-up midfield, with Justin Mapp a late scratch prior to Sunday's game (quad injury) and Baggio Husidic leaving the match with an ankle injury. Forward Collins John still is missing time because of an ongoing illness.

Chicago certainly should not take Charleston lightly. The Battery have had their success against MLS squads, including a 3-1 win last year over Chivas USA. In 2008, Charleston posted victories over the Houston Dynamo and FC Dallas to advance to the U.S. Open Cup championship, coming up just short, 2-1, against D.C. United in the finale.

Charleston midfielder Kevin Jackson, who originally was selected by the Fire in the 2000 MLS SuperDraft, is the lone Battery player remaining from the 2004 team that played against Chicago. Lamar Neagle has been Charleston's most lethal goal scorer this year. He was a part of the Seattle Sounders organization last year, but never saw action in an MLS match.

Charleston's lineup also includes former 2006-2007 Major Indoor Soccer League Rookie of the Year Stephen Armstrong, who used to play indoor with the Chicago Storm during the winter months. Armstrong had a five-year stint in MLS, and before the 2002 season D.C. United traded him to the Kansas City Wizards for former Fire defender Brandon Prideaux.