As has been the case twice already this season, David Accam took a starring role in a U.S. Open Cup match for the Chicago Fire.
Accam had a goal and an assist in the Fire’s 3-0 win against the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers in an Open Cup quarterfinal at Toyota Park on Wednesday. Accam entered the match having scored all three of the Fire’s goals in cup games this season.
It didn’t take long for Accam to make his mark, earning and then converting a penalty kick not even five minutes into the match. Arturo Alvarez found him in space on the left wing and Accam was able to overcome a heavy touch in the box to get another touch before onrushing goalkeeper Diego Restrepo, who then tripped Accam.
"I had a lot of space," Accam said. "For us we tried to utilize the space they left behind and it paid off.”
After scoring the opener, Accam played provider with a highlight-reel caliber run through the Strikers’ defense. Accam won the ball at the halfway line and put the moves on Ft. Lauderdale defender Gale Agbossoumonde, making him fall over in the box. Accam then rounded Restrepo and sent a centering ball across the face of the goal for Michael de Leeuw to tap in.
“I just made a quick decision," de Leeuw said of his goal. "I was first searching for the first ball, but David dribbled through the left side and you know you can be there for the rebound. The ball fell for my feet.
"It’s good to score the second goal. It’s important and in the end the third goal was also important because we knew also it’s done. If it’s 2-nil and they score then you know it can be difficult, but at the end we played a good game.”
Accam played a factor in the third goal as well. Nick LaBrocca headed an Accam corner on target and Khaly Thiam scored on the rebound to make it 3-0 in the 51st minute.
"(The third goal) was actually the trigger for us to start with the Plan B, which was to rest guys and prepare for the next game,” coach Veljko Paunovic said.
De Leeuw was subbed off shortly after the third goal and Accam exited the match in the 72nd minute. The Fire's first sub came in the first half when Razvan Cocis picked up an injury that Paunovic described as a "very strong contusion" in his right calf.
The three-goal margin was the Fire’s first win by more than a goal this season. It was also only the second time the Fire have had a lead of more than a goal all season. The Fire led 2-0 against Columbus in the last round of the U.S. Open Cup before winning 2-1.
“I think today, especially in the second half, we had a great opportunity to rehearse how to play, how to control the game," Paunovic said. "After the third goal they dropped a little bit more so it was a great opportunity for us to learn how to manage these kind of games where you have the possession, where you have to build your play, be patient and be precise with the ball.
"First time for me this year where we were comfortable and we didn’t suffer that much, but that’s just one small step."
After Ft. Lauderdale held a slim 51-49 percent edge in possession at halftime, the Fire finished the match with 55 percent of the possession.
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It is the Fire’s fourth straight semifinal appearance in the Open Cup and fifth in the past six years. The semi will take place Aug. 9 against the New England Revolution, which beat the Philadelphia Union in penalty kicks in another quarterfinal. The Revolution are also the Fire's opponent in MLS play on Saturday.
“Semifinals, it’s not a small thing," Paunovic said.
The draw to determine the host of the semifinal will take place at 10 a.m. Central on Thursday.