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Fire advance to next round of US Open Cup qualifying

A 40 yard blast from rookie Jalil Anibaba was enough to lift the Chicago Fire past defending MLS Cup champs Colorado Rapids Wednesday night to advance to the next qualifying stage of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

Anibaba’s strike – the first in his professional career – came in the 61st minute of the contest when he was given space and let loose a screamer to beat Colorado keeper Ian Joyce at his near post. Uruguyan Gaston Puerari grabbed his second goal for the Men in Red in all competitions just before the stroke of half time. Colorado equalized two minutes after the break on a Andre Akpan goal.

The game was played at Bradley University’s Shea Stadium and was streamed live on the Fire’s website.

Colorado was missing some key players in scoring duo Omar Cummings (international duty) and Connor Casey (remained in Colorado), as well as missing midfielder Pablo Mastroeni. Colorado head coach Gary Smith used the match as an opportunity to play new signings and rookies, many of whom made their professional debuts.

The Fire came into the match at almost full strength – the exceptions being Marco Pappa (international duty) and Josip Mikulic (quad). Rookie MLS draft pick Davis Paul made his debut in place of Pappa and newly acquired defender Yamith Cuesta came in for Mikulic, who picked up an injury in training. The Fire deviated from their new 3-5-2 formation to the more traditional 4-4-2.

The Fire will play the winner of the Portland Timbers-San Jose Earthquake match in the next round of qualification.

Man of the Match: Jalil Anibaba. Once again Anibaba was a brick wall in the defense and his 40 yard game-winner was a master stroke that caught the keeper off-guard. As the saying, “You’ll never win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket” and Anibaba’s blast could well be the goal of the season for the Fire.

Needs to do better: Dasan Robinson. Robinson came in for Cuesta in the 60th minute because the Colombian was already cautioned. Robinson is entering his sixth year of MLS action, so it’s likely that his shaky-at-times performance last night was an anomaly.

Players to keep an eye on: Gaston Puerari and Diego Chaves. The Uruguayan strike duo combined well once again and the pair will only get better as they get more acclimated to the MLS style of play.

Side note: Commentator Brendan Hannan yelled “These pretzels are making me thirsty” after Gaston Puerari’s goal – an allusion to the line Cosmo Kramer was supposed to say in a Woody Allen movie in an episode of “Seinfeld.”

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