Chicago Fire fans are not a particularly happy bunch at the moment. The team had a disappointing offseason, selling off a fan favorite while failing to bring in the big name player everyone was hoping for. These negative feelings only grew when the Fire lost their opening match of the season at home to Kansas City. It was a poor performance from Chicago, especially on defense, conceding four goals to a Sporting attack that didn’t score a lot last season.
However, it is a long season, and there is plenty of time for the Fire to right some wrongs. You can always find a silver lining if you look hard enough, and there are still some positives to take out of the Fire’s opening match.
Niko Is Still Niko
Nemanja Nikolic was quite the surprise to Major League Soccer last season, taking the league by storm after scoring 24 goals and picking up the Golden Boot award. Some Fire fans were worried that he wouldn’t be as effective of a goalscorer this season, as most players suffer a sophomore slump in MLS. Defenses learn and adapt, while the long travel begins to take a toll on the body. Thankfully, it seems like Niko is still the same Niko. Both of his goals were what we’ve come to expected out of the Hungarian. He grabbed his first after tapping in a rebound, and scored his second after getting first to a cross inches away from goal. Nikolic also showed immense passion, screaming and celebrating both goals with the Fire fans in Section 8. The Fire will need his goals if they want to make a playoff run this season, and it seems Niko is raring to go after a 2nd consecutive Golden Boot.
After bagging the first #cf97 goal of 2018, you voted Aleksandar Katai your #CHIvSKC @KrakusPolishHam Man of the Match pic.twitter.com/18gRpefEc7— Chicago Fire (@ChicagoFire) March 11, 2018
Katai Shines On Debut
As the Fire’s biggest offseason acquisition, the pressure was on Aleksandar Katai to perform. By the end of the night, Katai had been named man of the match after picking up a goal and a secondary assist. The new number 10 took some time to get into the flow of the game, adjusting to the speed of the league while trying to figure out his position on the field. Once he got going, the winger really turned it on. Katai danced by several Kansas City defenders, opening up spaces in a usually compact defense. His crosses were pinpoint as well, especially his back post dink to a wide open Solignac, who was somehow unable to head home from close out. The goal he got was well deserved, making a smart run into the penalty area, and heading it past Meila in the bottom corner. Performances like this show why the Fire front office brought Katai to Chicago, and all involved will hope he can build momentum off of his impressive debut.
Dead Ball Danger
Did you know that the Fire did not score a single goal from a set piece in the 2017 MLS season?!?! It is a fact that has been repeated countless times this offseason, but it is a significant one nonetheless. Thankfully, it seems this season’s team won’t have the same problem. Katai has become the new corner kick taker, and whipped in some devilishly good crosses over the course of the match. Chicago’s second goal of the day came as a result of one of these corners, with Dax winning the header and Niko poking in the rebound. The team is taller as well, with Tchani and substitute Collier bringing in some much needed height. In the free kick department, it seems Schweinsteiger has been given full responsibilty. He had some good looks, with the Fire winning a couple of free kicks just outside the area, but the German couldn’t any of his efforts over the Kansas City wall. Schweinsteiger grabbed some free kick goals for Bayern, and will surely get one for the Fire before the end of the season.
So, it is not time to obliterate the panic button just yet. For the sake of Fire faithful, though, let’s just hope Chicago can put on a better showing this Saturday in Minnesota.