There really is no clever or even worthy way of starting this recap. What Chicago did in Montreal simply leaves one speechless.
For more than two years, fans have waited for the Fire to win a game on the road. The legend of the streak grew and grew. As Chicago blundered its way to 36 straight road games without a victory, it found itself the laughing stock of the league and among some of the saddest runs of futility in all of American professional sports.
Well that’s all over now. The Fire didn’t just snap their road winless streak Saturday, they crushed it under their collective heel, making a sound so loud the rest of the league had to take notice. When Chicago puts up a 3-0 scoreline on the road, you can’t help but notice.
From the beginning, it looked like Saturday could be the night. The Fire almost looked like a different team with the energy they brought and their willingness to attack at all costs. By the time the 10th minute came around, it already seemed like Chicago had a couple of good looks.
And when the Fire were giving up chances, which they certainly did, Sean Johnson was more than up to the task. The Milkman ended with five saves and looked like the national team prospect from a few years ago in doing so. Whatever confidence he may have lost he found in Montreal, denying Didier Drogba twice with stellar saves on free kicks and turning back a rocket from Marco Donadel. Those three saves were the highlights but he was tremendous throughout and absolutely crucial to the victory.
Even if a Montreal goal managed to sneak in, I don’t know if it would have rattled this team’s confidence on this night like we have seen so many times before. David Accam and Luis Solignac found a real chemistry, with the latter opening the scoring and netting his first goal as a Fire player.
In the 15th minute, a pass from Michael de Leeuw out of the back to Accam set up a one-man sprint upfield. Solignac managed to catch up and Accam laid the ball off for the new striker. Solignac entered the Montreal box, cut back to send two defenders flying and hit a magnificent curling shot to the back post. It was a little similar to the goal Kennedy Igboananike hit on Montreal earlier in the season.
The goal only inspired the Fire to keep attacking. They finished the first half strong with a couple of chances, including a rocket off the woodwork from Accam. The second half started out a bit slowly for the Fire, but the defense limited the chances.
It was the introduction of Arturo Alvarez in the 72nd minute that re-energized the team. The unlikely hero wasted no time making his presence felt as one minute after he came on he assisted on, and nearly scored, the second goal.
De Leeuw once again contributed a key pass as he ran into the Montreal box before passing back to Alvarez. Alvarez played a one-touch flick toward the back post but his shot clipped the heel of Accam who ended up as the official goal scorer. The ball was probably going in either way. It was a great piece of play by all involved.
Even at 2-0 with only 20 minutes left, the Fire were not ready to settle. Coach Veljko Paunovic was clearly pushing his team on from the sidelines, urging them to do anything but settle.
Alvarez took the advice of his coach and was key to creating the third goal of the match. After receving the ball outside the top of the box, Alvarez got into a wrestling match with Donadel and simultaneously delivered an Evenflow DDT to Donadel while freeing the ball for Matt Polster to take.
Polster found himself with tons of space, ran the ball in the box and finished with a curling strike to the back post you would expect from a seasoned No. 9. There are no adjectives to describe Polster at this point. He was at another level Saturday and is just amazingly good at soccer.
That goal iced the game in the 89th minute and the Fire won their first road game in more than two years.
It has been a tough year for the Fire but I think we’ll look back at this game as the bright spot of 2016 and maybe, just maybe, the beginning of something new.
For once, it did not feel like a chore to watch the Fire play soccer. Some of that had to do with them winning 3-0 I’m sure, but the style of play was fun. It looked like the players were having fun! I can’t remember the last time everyone looked that excited to actually be playing. Seeing Paunovic basically beg for another goal even though his team was up 2-0 was fun. That’s fun soccer. That’s soccer I hope to see.
The Fire have the Los Angeles Galaxy at home Wednesday and it seems like a real opportunity to put together a two-game winning streak. If you saw the Galaxy game Saturday (and I’m very sorry if you did), they were pretty uninterested and not very good. If they bring that form into Chicago on a short turnaround and the Fire play how they did Saturday, it should be a win.
But forget about the future and forget about the past. Revel in this moment! The Fire won on the road and everyone played great.