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RIVERHOUNDS FALL TO CHICAGO FIRE OF MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER 2-1 IN FOURTH ROUND OF U.S. OPEN CUP

TOYOTA PARK, BRIDGEVIEW IL- In a game that was marred and shortened by severe weather delays, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds fell to the Chicago Fire, of Major League Soccer (MLS), 2-1, in the fourth round of the 2014 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup at Toyota Park, in Bridgeview, Illinois.   

The Fire capitalized on goals by Grant Ward and Mike McGee that proved to be the difference in a match that didn't start until 9:25 p.m. (CST) -- and was called after 49 minutes of play.

The Riverhounds responded to The Fire's two goals in the first half, thanks to a header by Andrew Marshall in the 42nd minute that the linesman declared barely crossed the goal line.

When the teams, and officials took the field for the start of the second half, lightning strikes in the distance sent everyone back into the locker rooms.   

After waiting for about an hour to resume the match, both teams, and the officials, along with USSF Match Commissioner, announced that play would resume at 11:35p.m. (CST).  

But just four minutes into the second half, the match was finally called due to continuing severe weather, and the four-time US Open Cup Champions advanced to the quarterfinal round where they will meet fellow MLS foes, the Columbus Crew, next week.   

Riverhounds started in 4-5-1 formation, employing a strategy that was intended to limit Chicago's attack.   

It worked in the early going.  

During the first 15 minutes of play, the Riverhounds were able to keep the ball for long stretches as it appeared the Fire were a bit disorganized in their first game in 11 days.     

The Hounds built up a nice string of passes that led to a dangerous cross from Matt Dallman to Kevin Kerr in 7th minute that just sailed over Kerr's head.  

The Riverhounds conceded their first corner kick of the match in the 14th minute, setting up a soccer rarity.   

As Chicago's Harry Shipp lined up to take the corner, he surveyed Pittsburgh overloading the box with defenders, so he proceeded to play the ball short to open space, and essentially passed the ball in to himself - catching the Hounds off-guard.  His ensuing cross was played back for a shot that was deflected, and the Hounds averted their first dangerous threat.  

For the rest of the first half, the Fire began to assert themselves, and build possession.   

After Riverhounds cleared a Chicago corner kick in the 22nd minute, the Fire were able to quickly win the ball back.  Quincy Amarikwa received a ball at the top of the arc, turned to lay it toward Grant Ward, as he was making a run, drilled it into the net for the Fire's first tally.    

In the 40th minute, the Riverhounds were forced to defend Shipp's third corner of the half.  

Shipp sent an in-swinging ball for the middle of the box, that was headed toward the right side of the goal, and the Fire's Mike McGee delivered a quick, right-footed one-time volley into the roof of the net, past Hounds goalkeeper Hunter Gilstrap to give the Fire a two-goal lead.   

The Hounds responded quickly, moving forward within moments, to set up a free kick that was cleared away, setting up yet another Danny Earls corner kick that would merit positive results.  

Earls' kick sailed to the near post area where Collins John was able to poke the ball toward the Fire's goalkeeper Sean Johnson, who knocked it up in the air.  Andrew Marshall reacted quickly to head the ball downward toward the right of Johnson.  As it appeared the ball was going into the net, the Fire seemingly cleared the ball off the line.  

The linesman had ruled that the ball had crossed the goal line, and just like that, the Riverhounds were back in it, trailing 2-1 in the waning moments of the first half.  

The half would conclude with momentum on the Riverhounds side, but the rain delays would hamper their hopes to complete the comeback.   

The Riverhounds all time record against MLS teams is now -- 1-3

Defeating the Colorado Rapids in June 2001, but losing to the Fire in 2001 and 2014, and D.C. United in 2003.   

The Fire played an experienced starting eleven that included Johnson; Matt Watson, Bakary Soumare, Patrick Ianni, Greg Cochrane; Shipp, Logan Pause, Jeff Larentowicz, Ward; Magee, Amarikwa

Riverhounds starting line-up included Gilstrap; Vincent, Fekete, Marshall, Flunder; Motagalvan, Kerr, Earls, Dallman, Angulo; John.

The match marked the return to Toyota Park for John, who had played one season with the Fire in 2010, when he scored three goals in 17 appearances.  It was a homecoming of sorts for Hounds interim coach, Niko Katic, as well.  Katic played collegiately at Illinois Central College and Western Illinois University, as well as a stint on the Fire's Professional Development League (PDL) team.  

The Riverhounds return to Highmark Stadium, on Sunday, June 22, with a USL PRO League encounter with the Richmond Kickers at 3 p.m.   It's a promotional giveaway night presented by Highmark with free t-shirts given out to all fans in attendance.

PHOTO: Chicago Fire Communications - view full album HERE