Coming off back-to-back wins in league play last week, Austin FC now looks to take another step closer to capturing silverware on Wednesday night, when the Verde & Black will host Chicago Fire FC in a U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 match at Q2 Stadium. The match will be the first-ever competitive meeting between the two teams, with an Open Cup Quarterfinal berth on the line. Kickoff is set for 8:00 p.m. CT.
Austin FC Outlook
Austin picked up a pair of statement wins last week, earning a 2-1 road result over Seattle and a 1-0 home victory against Toronto. The Verde & Black have moved back above the playoff line as the team finds itself in its best run of form so far this season, with a 3-1-1 record across its last five games in all competitions.
Gyasi Zardes was a driving force behind the six-point week, scoring the winner in both matches. The team, anchored by the center back trio of Julio Cascante, Alex Ring, and Leo Väisänen, held Toronto to zero shots on target and just 0.21 xG on Saturday. Aleksandar Radovanović also impressed in his first Austin FC start in Seattle, winning 100 percent of his aerial duels.
With attention now turning to the Open Cup midweek, Austin will once again need contributions from the entire squad as it prepares for its sixth match in 19 days. Left back Adam Lundkvist is just one of several players who have stepped up during that busy stretch.
Lundkvist picked up an assist in Austin’s Round of 32 Open Cup match against New Mexico United, then set up Ethan Finlay’s opener against Seattle. While it doesn’t show up on a stat sheet, his initial cross created the chaos that led to Zardes’ game-winner vs. Toronto, and his thunderous volley earlier in the match was close to flying in and becoming a goal of the season candidate.
If Austin are victorious on Wednesday night against Chicago, Head Coach Josh Wolff’s side would find itself three wins away from lifting the Open Cup.
Chicago Fire FC Outlook
Though Austin and Chicago have no matchup history between them, the Fire are one of MLS’ most historic clubs, having joined the league in 1998. They’ve also won the Open Cup four times, including twice when Josh Wolff was a player there in 1998 and 2000.
To reach the Round of 16 in this year’s edition of the competition, the Fire defeated fellow Windy City side Chicago House AC 3-0 in the Third Round and St. Louis City SC 2-1 in the Round of 32. In league play, the team had a rocky start to the season which saw the departure of Head Coach Ezra Hendrickson.
Frank Klopas replaced Hendrickson and won his first two games in charge, though those victories were followed by a loss at Charlotte and a home draw with Atlanta. In all, Chicago has been a different team home and away, going unbeaten through 10 home matches across all competitions but with just three total points from five games on their travels.
Former Liverpool and Bayern Munich man Xherdan Shaqiri is undoubtedly the biggest name on the Fire’s roster. MLS veteran Kei Kamara leads the team with four goals though, and Kacper Przybylko is another one to watch for up front.
Possible Chicago Lineup
(4-2-3-1, R-L) - GK: Chris Brady; Arnaud Souque, Mauricio Pineda, Rafael Czichos, Miguel Navarro; Federico Navarro, Fabian Herbers; Maren Haile-Selassie, Xherdan Shaqiri, Brian Gutierrez; Kei Kamara