5 things to know about FC Cincinnati’s stunning U.S. Open Cup upset

FC Cincinnati forward Kadeem Dacres (7) and Chicago Fire defender Jonathan Campbell (16) vie for a header in the second half of a U.S. Open Cup soccer match, Wednesday, June 28, 2017, in Cincinnati. FC Cincinnati won 3-1 on penalty kicks. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
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FC Cincinnati forward Kadeem Dacres (7) and Chicago Fire defender Jonathan Campbell (16) vie for a header in the second half of a U.S. Open Cup soccer match, Wednesday, June 28, 2017, in Cincinnati. FC Cincinnati won 3-1 on penalty kicks. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

FC Cincinnati’s incredible run through the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup just keeps getting better.

The club delivered the biggest win in its impressive two-year history Wednesday night, beating Major League Soccer's Chicago Fire SC 3-1 in penalty kicks in front of an electric crowd at Nippert Stadium to advance to the Cup quarterfinals July 12 at North American Soccer League's Miami FC.

»PHOTOS: FC Cincinnati stuns Chicago Fire

FCC had won its first three games in the Cup 1-0, including one in extra time, and the shootout Wednesday night – following 120 minutes of scoreless soccer – topped even the rivalry upset of Columbus Crew SC in the fourth round. Chicago, the No. 2 team in the MLS Eastern Conference, brought a 10-game unbeaten streak to Cincinnati and a star-studded lineup.

Here are the top 5 things to know from the match:

1. Mitch says no

FCC goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt played arguably the best game of his career, making 10 saves through 120 minutes of action and then amazingly stopping three of four penalty kicks.

After Aodhan Quinn missed FCC’s first attempt, Hildebrandt stepped up to provide a boost of hope, stopping star forward Nemanja Nikolic’s shot on the Fire’s first attempt and then making the next save against Arturo Alvarez.

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FCC didn’t miss again, and Jimmy McLaughlin, the fourth shooter, sent his right-footed kick into the left corner to put the Fire in a must-make situation. When Hildebrandt saved Juninho’s shot, the dogpile ensued.

“Obviously, we have people that watch penalties and give me some info but mainly I just try to stay my ground and react,” Hildebrandt said. “Credit to the staff, they gave us good direction and I went out and executed.”

2. Fitting finish

It was only fitting that McLaughlin scored the penalty kick to force a must-make situation for Chicago Fire’s fourth kicker.

McLaughlin had come off the bench in the 66th minute and had three good chances to score but couldn't break Fire goalie Matthew Lampson. In his 54 minutes of action, McLaughlin was the most productive player on FCC's attack, finishing with five shots, three on target, and three created chances.

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His kick, followed by Hildebrandt’s last save, sealed the win and capped an incredible night for the Philadelphia native who surprisingly has just one goal this season.

3. Defending for their lives

Much like the Crew game on June 14, FC Cincinnati was on the defensive most of the match, conceding 70.2 percent of the possession time to the star-studded Fire. Chicago put plenty of scares in the home side, but the back line of Austin Berry, Justin Hoyte and Harrison Delbridge put in another stellar performance to help Hildebrandt maintain the shutout that seemed unlikely.

FCC played more aggressively in the second half, particularly when normal starters like McLaughlin, Corben Bone and Andrew Wiedeman came on as subs, but Chicago finished with 26 shots, including 10 on target, and had 18 corner kicks.

Lakota West High School graduate Matt Bahner also came up big on defense, sweeping out a goal-line clearance in front of a wide open net to prevent what looked like a certain goal in the 16th minute.

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“When you play against a team as good as they are, that have players like that … we know we are going to concede possession, but that’s where the players’ soccer IQ and willingness to work for each other really come in,” FC Cincinnati coach Alan Koch said. “You have to weather a couple moments.”

4. Missed chances

FCC might have been able to end the game in regulation or at least in extra time had a couple of calls gone its way.

At the end of regulation during stoppage time, an apparent handball in the box went uncalled, which would have been given FCC a penalty kick. Then, in the second period of extra time, Wiedeman thought he had the game-winning goal in the 109th minute, sending Bone's pass into the lower right corner of the goal just as the sideline official lifted his flag to signal offsides.

5. Attendance records

Wednesday’s crowd of 32,287 fans set a Cup non-finals attendance record and now sits as FCC’s all-time record for a competitive match, surpassing the crowd of 30,187 that attended FC Cincinnati’s USL playoff game Oct. 2, 2016. Out of 30 matches total at Nippert Stadium, this game ranks No. 2 behind only the 35,061 mark set at the friendly against Crystal Palace last July.

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“That passion, you don’t get that at many places,” Koch said. “There’s a lot of passion in our sports across the world, but that was pretty unique tonight. The energy out there was absolutely fantastic.”