Chicago Fire 1 Parker (OG) 48’
In the press conference following the game, head coach Veljko Paunovic said that the win “wasn’t pretty, but was good for the group.” That was undoubtedly the truest thing Pauno has said all season.
Today’s win— the Fire’s first in 2019— was, as the kids might say, ugly af. Their passing was atrocious. They failed to capitalize on their best chances. There were moments when this team was downright sloppy up front.
But it was an entirely different story in the back. They kept their shit locked down tight, even after defending a small lead (a situation in which the Fire tend to do poorly). They did enough to secure the result.
And right now, that feels huge.
The opening of the game was, in many respects, a typical Fire outing. Defense just about holding it together. The forward line creating some chances. (Sparse attendance. ahem). No goals. No tangible payoff for the things this team was doing right. A growing sense of dread, anticipating what would surely come next.
The latter part of the first half, in particular, had had a pretty strong showing for the Fire. Aleksandar Katai and Przemysław Frankowski were combining well, forcing Luis Robles to deliver some last-second heroics. Very late in the half, Nemanja Nikolic hit a shot while fighting off two defenders, beating Robles but drifting wide of the post. Chicago absolutely could’ve been up 1-0 at halftime.
Instead, the Fire went into the tunnel at the half with no goals and lots of regret.
Halftime Stats, Things of note, The passing numbers are horrible. This game is one of those super entertaining games that are technically atrocious. So classic MLS #cf97 #CHIvRBNY #mls pic.twitter.com/O6agTQxQVX— Hot Time In Old Town (@HotTimeOldTown) March 30, 2019
The second half started, which meant it was time for the Fire to concede a goal and then spend the rest of the half chasing the game.
Not today, though! Three minutes into the half, the ball ping-ponged around New York’s box and fell to Nikolic, who pulled off this funky off-balance flick thing, bouncing it off Tim Parker and blooping it over the line.
G ⚽️ A L#cf97 1:0 #RBNY pic.twitter.com/RBxGkLfFpc— Chicago Fire (@ChicagoFire) March 30, 2019
Nikolic would have to wait a little longer to break his goal drought, but the end feels closer than it has all month.
The Fire kept up the pressure after the goal. Bastian Schweinsteiger let one rip from outside the box and almost beat Robles. Frankowski kept testing the back line. Chicago looked hungry for that second goal. It was encouraging, if nothing else.
Soon after the hour mark, Katai came off the pitch to allow for Gaitán’s debut. You wouldn’t call the atmosphere electric, per se, but there was definitely a positive shift in energy.
There would be no second goal, but the Fire’s forward line did enough to keep New York on their back foot. Meanwhile, Mo Adams continued to grow into his midfield destroyer role, locking the likes of Bradley Wright-Philips out of the game and cleaning up messes as they happen.
It was ugly. It was nerve-wracking at times. But it was enough. Today, it was enough.
The Chicago Fire (1-1-2, 4pts) hit the road next week to take on Toronto FC.