Chris Mueller and the Chicago Fire return to SeatGeek Stadium in Beidgeview to take on the Chicago House on April 26 in the third round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Chris Mueller and the Chicago Fire return to SeatGeek Stadium in Beidgeview to take on the Chicago House on April 26 in the third round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Pro Sports Report | Fire and House ready to battle in Bridgeview

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By Jeff Vorva
Staff Writer

The official name of the tournament is the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

But the way things have been shaping up in 2023, there wouldn’t be much of an argument if it was changed to the Peter Wilt U.S. Open Cup.

Three soccer teams that Wilt had a hand in founding — the Chicago Fire, Forward Madison and Chicago House — were among the teams competing in the event.

The House, the team currently owned by Wilt, beat Madison, 3-2, in the second round on April 11, clinching a date with the Fire in a battle of former SeatGeek Stadium tenants at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 26 at their old stomping grounds in Bridgeview.

The House, a Midwest Premier League team that played at SeatGeek in 2021, advanced to the third round when A.R. Smith scored in overtime. The House trailed 2-0 heading into the 75th minute before mounting the monumental comeback.

It was only the second time in the modern era of the tournament that an amateur team came back from a 2-0 deficit to beat a pro club.

The Fire won the U.S. Open Cup in 1998, 2000, 2003 and 2006, and has a 45-16-7 all-time record in the tournament.

The House will enter the third round with a 15-game unbeaten streak. The Fire is coming off a 2-2 tie against Philadelphia in an MLS battle on April 15 at Soldier Field.

WILT scaled

The Chicago House, run by CEO by Peter Wilt, will face the Chicago Fire on Wednesday, April 26 at SeatGeek Stadium in the third round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Wilt is also the founder of the Fire. Photo by Jeff Vorva

 

Rookie to the rescue
With an 0-2-0 start and without their top scorer, Mallory Swanson, for the foreseeable future because of a torn left patellar tendon, the Chicago Red Stars were having a miserable start to their season. Swanson was injured playing for the U.S. Women’s National Team in a friendly match against Ireland and underwent surgery, and will be out at least a few months.

But rookie Penelope Hocking gave Stars fans a thrill as she scored her first two professional goals in a 4-2 victory over the Kansas City Current on April 15 at SeatGeek Stadium.

Ella Stevens also scored, and a Cheyna Matthews’ shot that found the net was ruled an own-goal, and the Red Stars built a 4-0 lead at the 67-minute mark.

“I’m excited for the individual players and the team,” Stars coach Chris Petrucelli said. “It hasn’t necessarily been a very fun week for us. There wasn’t a lot of joy all week. But we had some joy tonight.”

Hocking said it was a “sigh of relief” to get her first goal.

“I want to do as much as I can to help the team win,” she said. “I know the team needs a goal scorer right now with Mal out, and I’m glad that I was able to do that today and that my teammates can do it as well, too.”

It was a strange sight to see former longtime Stars player Vanessa DiBernardo at SeatGeek Stadium playing in a different uniform. The midfielder who was with Chicago from 2014-2022 played 62 minutes in the game.

The Stars (1-2-0) visit the OL Reign (2-1-0) at 2:30 p.m. April 22 at Lumen Field in Seattle. The Reign beat San Diego, 1-0, on April 15 and had a Challenge Cup battle with Angel City on April 19.

On April 16, the Red Stars acquired Sandra Starke on loan from VfL Wolfsburg. Starke will be with Chicago through June 30.

 

Expansion coming to NWSL
Utah and the San Francisco Bay Area will be the thirteenth and fourteenth NWSL teams. The expansion teams will begin play in 2024.

“The number of bids and the increase in the league’s expansion fees are indicative of both the demand that exists for women’s soccer in the professional sports landscape and the validated growth trajectory of our league,” said NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman.

“We said at the start of the expansion process in July 2022 that we would be intentional in seeking out strong markets and ownership groups that not only had the structural integrity for our league to thrive, but also demonstrated a genuine commitment to investing in and creating first-rate organizations on and off the pitch.”

Sixth Street has partnered with four former U.S. Women’s National Team players in Brandi Chastain, Leslie Osborne, Danielle Slaton and Aly Wagner, who originally launched the effort to bring an NWSL expansion team to the Bay Area with the support of women executives and community leaders from across the region. As the club’s Founding Football Four, they will be represented on the club’s majority women board and will work alongside Sixth Street in setting the team’s strategic direction.

“The Bay Area is where this all began,” said Chastain, a two-time FIFA World Cup champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist. “We are as excited about what this club will achieve on the field of play as we are for what it will represent for generations of women athletes and professionals yet to come.”

The NWSL is eying the addition of two more expansion teams in the future.

 

Hounds still sliding
San Diego, which has the best record in Major League Rugby at 7-0-1, beat the Chicago Hounds, 48-24, on April 16 at Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego. The Hounds (1-7-0) have dropped four straight.

The Hounds are struggling, they aren’t setting records in futility. The only team they beat, Toronto, was massacred by New England 80-5 on April 15. New England in that game set records for most points, winning margin and most tries (12).

Late last week, the Hounds signed Chicago-born Justice Nkombua, a lock and flanker who last year played for  the University of Pretoria in the Young Gun competition. They also signed 6-foot-7 lock Cameron Dodson.

The Hounds host NOLA Gold (3-5-0) at 1 p.m. April 23 at SeatGeek Stadium.

 

Fire II loses
The Chicago Fire II gave up two goals in a 10-minute span toward the end of the game and went on to a 2-1 loss in the MLS NEXT Pro game on April 16 at windy SeatGeek Stadium.

Missael Rodriguez scored the lone goal for the Fire (2-2-0) in the first half on a breakaway. Philadelphia improved to 1-3-0.

The Fire II visits Atlanta 2 (1-2-1) at 6:30 p.m. on April 22.

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