Twenty years ago, on July 6, 1998, the Chicago Fire took the field for their first-ever U.S. Open Cup game, starting a run that eventually saw them crowned as champions in the club's inaugural season.
After three more Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup titles in 2000, 2003 and 2006, the Fire are seeking the club's fifth title. On July 18, the Fire will face defending USL Cup champion Louisville City FC in the quarterfinals at Toyota Park (TICKETS), where a victory would extend their U.S. Open Cup-record for semifinal appearances to 13.
As the 2018 edition of the Chicago Fire prep for a run at the cup, take a look back at the path to Open Cup glory traveled 20 years ago by the 1998 Chicago Fire:
July 6, 1998: Chicago Fire 3, Chicago Stingers 1
The Fire's bid for a U.S. Open Cup run in their inaugural season almost was extinguished from the start, with the Fire needing a late comeback to overturn a 1-0 deficit against Division 3 side Chicago Stingers -- a team that eventually finished as 1998 USISL champions.
A combination of factors made it a tricky matchup for Bob Bradley's side, which had played two days earlier at Dallas and had a looming road matchup with the Columbus Crew just three days later. They also were not on home ground, playing at the Stingers’ Forest View Park in Arlington Heights, Ill.
The Stingers took an early lead in the 22nd minute when they took advantage of a defensive lapse to slot the ball past Fire goalkeeper Zach Thornton. After an agonizing 80 minutes, forward Frank Klopas notched a goal to tie the game before midfielder Diego Gutierrez scored off a bicycle kick in the 83rd minute to turn the game in the Fire’s favor. In the 87th minute, Josh Wolff chipped in for the Fire’s third goal.
July 22, 1998: Chicago Fire 1(4), San Jose Clash 1(3)
Facing fellow MLS side San Jose Clash at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas, the Fire kickstarted the game with a 55th-minute goal from defender Lubos Kubik. Following a San Jose goal some 10 minutes later, both teams remained 1-1 after 120 minutes. When it came down to penalties, Gutierrez -- who had only recently returned from a knee injury -- proved pivotal yet again, scoring the decisive penalty kick that launched the Fire into the semifinals.
August 4, 1998: Chicago Fire 3, Dallas Burn 2
The Fire took an early lead at Zephyr Field in Metairie, Louisiana, when Ante Razov slotted in an 11th-minute goal. Although Dallas managed to equalize the game in the 23rd minute, the Fire's subsequent two goals in the 56th and 74th minutes helped secure the Fire's ticket to the finals. Dallas' response in the 83rd minute with a penalty kick goal was insufficient.
October 30, 1998: Chicago Fire 2, Columbus Crew 1
Just five days earlier in Pasadena, the Fire had clinched a historic MLS Cup win with a 2-0 victory against D.C. United. Faced with another final, the Fire had to regroup and prepare for the home game at Soldier Field.
Playing before a strong home crowd of 18,615, the Fire took the initial lead at the end of the first half from forward Jerzy Podbrozny's penalty kick goal. Columbus responded shortly after the second half began, when Stern John scored through a free kick.
With the score tied 1-1 at full-time, the two teams headed into an extra 15 minutes of play. In the 99th minute, Klopas, who had only been substituted into the match at the start of overtime, scored the game-winning goal. Razov's header from a corner kick found Klopas right at his feet, and he duly blasted home the winner.
Information from the Chicago Tribune archives was used in this story.