Chicago Fire 2 Gaitán 21’, Katai 34’
After that long stretch of road games that was really only a week long, I knew that not only were these next two games at home were vitally important to get convert into six points. Not only were they make or break games as far as keeping any hope of playoffs alive, but they were also completely winnable.
They completed half of the equation when they took care of New England Wednesday night, and all they needed to do was take that momentum earned and get the job done against a much tougher team in the Loons.
And boy, did they.
The first half, for lack of a better term, was special and started off with a bang. On the Fire’s first real bit of possession two and a half minutes in, Aleksander Katai finessed one off the post with the inside of his right foot. Five minutes later, he forced MNUFC goalkeeper Vito Mannone into a diving stop. The rebound seemed to surprise an oncoming Nemanja Nikolic, who had the ball ricochet off his shin and wide of goal.
The breakthrough finally came after twenty one minutes off of a Loons corner, of all things. A deflected corner fell to the feet of Nico Gaitán, who Quickly played a give and go with Dax McCarty. Dax shuffled the ball forward into space where it found the quick feat of Przemysław Frankowski. Frankie sprinted the ball into the box and shifted it over to Gaitán, who never stopped running. He rounded Mannone with a classy hesitation dribble, and guided it into the back of the net. It was an absolutely sensational counter attack.
The Men In Red then spent the next few minutes in cruse control. They just kept possession and didn’t allow MNUFC a chance to get back into the game. However it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Chicago. Nico Gaitán had to come off in the 33rd minute of the match clutching the back of his right thigh. As of this writing, there is no injury update on him, and if he’s out for any length of time, it will stall any momentum gained with him in the line up.
For tonight, however, his absence wouldn’t be missed much. Seconds after he left the pitch, the Fire got their insurance goal. After a bit of back and forth in the midfield, The ball ended up at the foot of Katai with acres of space in front of him. Katai did what he does best, and took advantage of it. He streaked into the box, trailed by a slew of defenders and attackers. He took a touch to create some space from Ike Opera and Smashed it across the face of goal where his tag team partner Niko was waiting. But, the hot tag wasn’t necessary as the ball snuck in at the far post, putting the Fire ahead for good.
The most notable quality of the second half was that it got chippy. Four of the game’s five yellow cards were awarded in the half, including one to Bastian Schweinsteiger. It was his fifth of the season, and so he’ll miss next week against the ‘quakes. The other three went to Loons players who seemed to lose the plot a little bit. Both Abu Danladi and Darwin Quintero got booked for starting a scrum after what looked like a pretty innocuous foul by Mo Adams. And that was that. The final whistle went and the Fire had won there second in a row.
That was a perfect way to close out the mini-home stand. I was worried that Wednesday was an aberration brought on by their opponents unwillingness to want to play soccer. It turns out that it was not. The Fire really can play this well and after the road stretch brought out the worst in them, I was glad see being at home brought out the best of them.
The Chicago Fire (4-4-4, 16pts) are back at it next Saturday on the road when they take on the San Jose Earthquakes.