USL History

Rewatch: Players share stories from classic Fire match


FC Cincinnati beating the Chicago Fire in the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is probably the club’s most important match, and arguably the team’s biggest moment.

On national television – against MLS’ best team at the time – the Orange and Blue beat the Fire in a dramatic penalty shootout that moved the FC Cincinnati needle from the club being a lower-level, scrappy team, to a club that MLS would be crazy not to have in the top level.  

A lot went into the Orange and Blue winning an MLS expansion bid, but no match was more important.

To celebrate the historic feat, FC Cincinnati re-aired that match Saturday afternoon. The Buffalo Wings & Rings Second Screen Experience aired simultaneously, when voice of FCC Tommy Gelerhter spoke with three former players about the dramatic cupset: Mitch Hildebrandt, Kadeem Dacres and Aodhan Quinn.

You can watch that conversation here. These were some of the top moments from the chat

“We just kept fighting for each other”

FCC have now re-aired three matches from the 2017 season, and on each occasion, the former players have highlighted the team’s ability to play as a collective rather than a group of individuals.

That’s necessary for a second-division side to beat an MLS team, of course, but Quinn reaffirmed that message played an integral part in the Fire match, which was scoreless through 120 minutes before the shootout.

“It was extremely hard because they have (Bastian) Schweinsteiger and he’s basically a machine,” Quinn said. “We just kept fighting for each other. I think that’s what really pushed us along.”

Hildebrandt said the same.

While his three penalty-shootout saves delivered the club’s most dramatic moment to date, he highlighted other moments of teamwork earlier in the match that go underappreciated.

“It was an impressive run and a lot of guys contributed to that,” the goalkeeper said. “In the first half, we had two guys clear the ball off the line – that wasn’t me.”

Dacres is officially an expert in Open Cup upsets

The winger played an integral part of FC Cincinnati advancing in to the 2017 semifinals, but he also knocked the Orange and Blue out of the competition last season.

Now with Saint Louis FC, he and his teammates defeated Cincinnati in the fifth round last season, 1-0, with a last-minute goal. In the last three seasons, he and Matt Bahner, his former FCC teammate who was with him in Missouri last year, have made the U.S. Open Cup’s quarterfinals twice.

“It’s definitely been a really fun journey during the Open Cup competition the last couple of years,” Dacres said. “We were lucky enough to make it to the quarters against Atlanta (in 2019).

“All I know is it started in Cincy.”

Quinn on his offseason training partner: Frankie Amaya

Quinn played with Amaya briefly in 2019 when the No. 1 pick in the MLS SuperDraft was on loan with the USL Championship side. The duo trained together this past offseason as well, and Quinn said Amaya is a promising prospect who will shine for the Orange and Blue moving forward.

“I love that kid,” Quinn said about the teenager. “I’m excited for him and Cincinnati. He’ll shine for you guys and hopefully the league, as well.”

Hildebrandt on becoming a coach

Following the 2017 season with Cincinnati, the goalkeeper left the club to play for Atlanta United FC and their second team. In February 2019, the keeper announced his retirement from playing.

He’s still involved in the game – as a coach.

Hildebrandt is the goalkeeper coach for Sporting Kansas City II in the USL Championship. SKC II are formerly the Swope Park Rangers.

“It was a bit difficult to start and I’ve fallen in love with it,” he said about coaching. “Now, it’s like second nature and it’s been really fun."

His new second nature wasn’t part of his initial plans. He mentioned he would’ve said “dead no” if someone suggested he’d be a coach after a playing career. His interests were actually on the front office side of soccer.