Nemanja Nikolic 3, David Accam 9
Roland Lamah 6
Every quick recap will focus on the first 10 minutes of the 2017 Brimstone Cup matchup between our Fire and FC Dallas, and with good reason - the opening stanza of this match was pure madness: both teams unlimbering haymakers, both teams landing them. The opening 10 minutes was thrilling, end-to-end football, and the Fire had the best of it, sprinting to a 2-1 lead that would remain unchanged for the rest of the night. (A sample Quick Recap is included for study.)
It’s not unreasonable to focus on the 10 minutes when all the goals happened, but - as a Fire fan - it’s what happened in the 80 minutes that followed that was an absolute delight. After years where intransigent awfulness was only broken up by moments of nervous ascendance, to see the Chicago Fire so comprehensively pull Dallas’ several tactical gambits limb-from-limb and so confidently pass through a shifting profusion of pressing attempts was a revelation: This team isn’t just okay - this team is very good and improving. Tonight in Bridgeview, the Men in Red simply played through one of the best teams in MLS, displaying a swagger in the variety and quality of their possession the greener visitors simply couldn’t match.
The Quick Recap: The Fire and Dallas exploded from the gate, attacking each other with swashbuckling abandon. All three goals came in a back-and-forth opening stanza.
Chicago opened up scoring with a goal which presaged the kind of group movement they’d display all evening - Dax McCarty sizzled an entry pass to the feet of Nemanja Nikolic, who softened it enough to share the ball with Michael de Leeuw, then cutting parallel to goal. De Leeuw’s series of feints came to nothing, so he dropped to ball to Bastian Schweinsteiger, who clipped a first-time ball to Brandon Vincent on the left wing.
Vincent’s ball to the near-post channel was pinpoint, and Nikolic glanced it to the second post, taking one clear stride before he begins celebrating his MLS-leading 11th goal.
Dallas answered with a goal that featured perhaps the last gasp of the old-school Fire. In the 6th minute, Dallas’ Tesho Akindele won a header on the right side of the Chicago area, knocking it down to no one in particular. Joao Meira, thinking himself more hurried than he was, slashed at the bouncing ball wildly, spinning it into a more-dangerous position in front of the Fire goal. Johan Kappelhof darted forward to clear, but his hurried boot-to-anywhere instead banged off the body of visiting striker Cristian Colman, falling nicely for Roland Lamah to stroke past stranded Chicago keeper Matt Lampson. How many times in recent years have the Men in Red jumped ahead, only to immediately surrender the lead?
As if in answer, the Fire reclaimed the lead on an almost-contemptuous bit of skill from the ascendant David Accam. Kappelhof took advantage of a break in the pressing rotation to crank a 70-yard switch that found Accam isolated on the Dallas defensive left wing, and the lightning-bolt Ghanaian did the rest. After the barest feint toward running at the endline, Accam switched infield on his preferred right foot. Dallas’ uncertainty - go for the tackle or stand off? - was all he needed to score his seventh in league play, lashing a vicious shot to the back netting: 2-1, Fire, 9 minutes in.
And 90 minutes in. As I said, the first 10 were great, but it’s the 80 in the middle there where the real magic happened. Dallas, cogent, well-coached, and increasingly desperate, chased and chased and chased while the Fire changed shape from 4-2-3-1, to 4-3-3, to 5-3-2, to 5-4-1, to a shape without shape best described by the decisions and motions of its individuals than reference to any human geometry. They flowed into space that was offered, keeping the ball through the subtle wisdom of the wall pass.
They were great, goddamnit. Four in a row, and anything seems possible.
Chicago (7-3-3) get a few days off, returning to action on the road against Orlando City on June 4. FC Dallas (5-2-4) host in-state rival Houston Sunday.
- The Fire took full advantage of Dallas manager Oscar Pareja’s decision to get several key players rest, leaving Kellyn Acosta, Walker Zimmerman and Maxi Urruti in Texas.