En route to last year's run-in to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinal, the Chicago Fire dispatched the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Columbus Crew SC and Atlanta Silverbacks before slumping at the penultimate hurdle, losing out to eventual champion Seattle Sounders FC 6-0 at CenturyLink Field.
Ten months on from appearing in the club's 10th Open Cup semifinal - a modern era record - and his first with the Men in Red, Homegrown midfielder Harry Shipp knows a victory in Tuesday night's fourth round encounter with USL's Louisville City FC could help rekindle the hunger required to recapture Open Cup glory.
"It's tough especially in the summer months, the games are close together," Shipp said. "Last year we were able to win a few games and make it pretty far. Once you win a game or two in that, your competitive drive starts to come out and you want to win it all. I think some organizations take it more seriously than others and this is one that fortunately puts it on par with league play."
Following a third round that saw all seven USL-NASL fixtures result in victories for the former, upsets were aplenty and the ensuing round promises for some entertaining clashes as 17 MLS outfits join in. Though it remains to be seen, four-time winners of the tournament - in its 102nd year - Frank Yallop's side certainly isn't taking it lightly.
"We've got to win the game," Yallop said via teleconference Monday. "It's a tournament that this club's really taking seriously; I'm taking it seriously, as is the whole coaching staff and the players. We want to get on the right track; we want to get a win, especially at home, and get into the next round.
"It's no different to any year. I'm putting as much into this as all the other games we've tried to win this season. It's a tournament we want to do well in because it's got history here. We're desperate to do well; we want to win this first game, but do well in the tournament as a whole."
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On the back of their third straight league defeat - a 2-0 decision against the New England Revolution - the Fire were forced to operate without Shaun Maloney (Scotland), David Accam (Ghana) and Joevin Jones (Trinidad and Tobago), who were all away on international duty. Maloney and Accam both scored for their national sides against the Republic of Ireland and Mauritius, respectively, while Jones and the Soca Warriors still await Tuesday's friendly against Jordan.
With the match against Louisville looming, Yallop confirmed Accam, Jones and Mike Magee - still nursing a slight hamstring tweak - would be unavailable, while Maloney would possibly make the bench.
Meanwhile, Collin Fernandez, who was loaned to James O'Connor's group last week, was summoned back by the Fire. The 18-year-old made his professional debut last Wednesday, entering as an 88th-minute substitute against the Montreal Impact, and followed up with 76 minutes in the 2-0 loss to the Rochester Rhinos.
Even with a somewhat depleted and fatigued group, Yallop hinted at deploying as strong a lineup as possible, namely a similar corps to the one that emerged fruitless from Foxborough. A win against the first-year franchise at Toyota Park, moreover, would do wonders to make amends for poor form in the recent string of Eastern Conference defeats.
"Losing three in a row to conference opponents is not good," added Yallop. "Two have been away, but the one at home is the one you've got to get maximum points from. If you do well at home - like most teams do in our league - that's where you get most of your maximum points and we didn't do that.
"At some point, you can get points and wins on the road, but your home form has to be the one that drives you on. We've won four and lost three at home, which is not good. Big game tomorrow night, but big game the following Wednesday against D.C. again."
Fire vs. Louisville, slated for a 7:30 p.m. CT kickoff, will be available via live web stream on www.Chicago-Fire.com with Dan Kelly and Kevin Egan on the call. To watch the stream, click here.