Nemanja Nikolic scored his fourth goal in four games for the Chicago Fire as they got their first win of the season and out of the Eastern Conference cellar. The performance earned him and Bastian Schweinsteiger the honor of being named to the MLS Team Of The Week for this week.
The reason he scored? The coaching staff.
The Hungarian spoke to MLSsoccer.com after the match, where he credited Chicago goalkeeping coach Aleksandar Saric and the rest of the coaching staff for the goal.
Niko said they helped him identify Zack Steffen’s fondness for playing out from the back as a potential area of weakness for the Fire’s forwards to exploit. In his own words:
“I have a really good coaching staff, the goalkeeper coach Saric gave me good advice. They analyze like always our opponents. We knew that Steffen likes to play out from the back, Artur and Trapp they like to come to receive the ball, they are not afraid to play behind and our pressing in the first 15 to 20 minutes with me, (Alan) Gordon and Diego (Campos) was quite ok.”
Looking at the goal, you do see Niko just lunge and pounce forward when Steffen attempted the pass forward. The maneuver lead to a goal that would secure the win for the Fire.
Nikolic pounces on Steffen's error and it's 1-0 Chicago. pic.twitter.com/2RV863olRC— Total MLS (@TotalMLS) April 8, 2018
While it’s reassuring that there is film being watched and a game plan is being come up with, one has to wonder: what was missing the last three games? A discussion for another time.
For the future, Niko and the coaching staff doing this kind of in depth work does get me hopeful that against the Galaxy, a notoriously bad defense, they can repeat the work and do even more damage against a weak defensive squad.
We’ll find out soon enough when Zlatan and company come in to town on Saturday.