Chicago Fire 1 Ellis 89’
Those of you don’t follow the Red Stars— or our coverage of the Red Stars— probably haven’t noticed the #ScamGang meme circulating around since the start of the season. It started as an inside joke at the Red Stars desk and just sort of... grew? Went viral? Metastasized? It’s hard to say. Sandra gave a solid account of #ScamGang’s early history on a past episode of South Side Trap.
What it boils down to is that, faced with a tough schedule and a raft of injuries and an entire league gunning for them, the Red Stars have had to knuckle down and get points anyway they can. Some might call it grinding it out. We call it The Scam. It helped the Red Stars survive a very difficult start to the season and end up in a playoff spot in the NWSL.
Tonight, some of that thievery magic clearly rubbed off on their masculine counterparts. Unable to break through for much of the game and appearing to settle for a draw, the Chicago Fire managed to scam a win over the Montreal Impact, thanks to an 89th minute goal from an unlikely source.
You could be forgiven for not feeling totally confident ahead of kickoff. A 4-4-2 diamond, Kevin Ellis starting again, and Nemanja Nikolic in a strike tandem with this fucking guy. I certainly wasn’t feeling great about the whole thing. But it’s a three-game week and we’ve still got to get points somewhere, somehow.
The first half had a similar texture to the opening 45 against Atlanta. Pushing the opposition back, just about keeping them out of our net, Mo Adams bringing the pain, but the team unable to put anything together going forward. Except: the Fire were much sharper and more stable against Atlanta. Though the result was the same— goalless at halftime— it didn’t feel quite as strong a performance from the home team as Saturday.
Individual performances notwithstanding, of course.
Piatti’s touches tonight (via Opta). Reigning @MLS Player of the Week completed just *three* forward passes in his attacking half with @_moadams draped all over him.— Ted Bryant (@Ted_Bryant) May 10, 2018
Tough to overstate Mo’s performance this evening. #CHIvMTL #cf97 pic.twitter.com/En3yf0deoS
The second half began with long stretches of Whatevering punctuated by occasional bursts of Ignacio Piatti remembering there’s a ticking clock. Velkjo Paunovic realized the strike partnership wasn’t working and took off the crappy one around the hour mark. But then he took off Niko ten minutes later. There’s only two reasons for that: to keep him functional for the trip to Columbus on Saturday, or because Pauno decided to just play for the draw.
Despite some wild moments and near-misses late, it looked like the Fire were heading for a goalless draw. Which, fine. It’s a point. And probably no more than this team deserved. That doesn’t mean it would’ve felt good.
And then... this.
Kevin Fucking Ellis, man. Second goal in as many games. This one the late gamewinner. A guy who, like Richard Sanchez before him, we’ve dragged in these pages and are now heartily eating crow. What a night.
The Fire just about managed to hold onto the lead through four minutes of stoppage time. Former Fire winger Dominic Oduro gave everyone a scare around the 93rd, but his flashing shot across goal didn’t curve in for the equalizer.
“I said, you know what, you’re inside the box, just hit it and see what happens.”
-Kevin Ellis, after the game
Three points and a clean sheet. That’s what matters, right? This team isn’t playing as well as anyone expected— except for the curmudgeons, of course— and winning like this is probably not the preference of many fans.
But we’re past the point of being picky. It’s MLS in May. We gotta start getting points anyway we can. If that means late clutch goals and stubborn defending and dirty tricks, then so be it. This might just be who we are this year. There’s no shame in leaning into it.
You don’t choose the Scam Life. It chooses you.
The Chicago Fire (3W 2D 4L, 11pts, 7th place in the Eastern Conference) are back at it on Saturday when they travel to Columbus for what may be the final time.