Chicago Fire 3 McCarty 08’, Nikolic 19’, Schweinsteiger 88’
Montreal Impact 2 Taider 34’, Sagna 76’
Narratives are hard things to grasp, especially while you are in the midst of one. There are may ways one could craft the story of the Fire’s 3-2 victory of Montreal, many of them conflicting. If you were feeling pessimistic, you could say that The Fire were lucky to get out with a win—that the only reason they won was because of some last minute heroics that wouldn’t have been necessary if they weren’t such screw-ups.
If you were feeling optimistic, you could say that the club showed the grit that was missing earlier in the year, and maybe there’s hope for a playoff run.
If you were feeling realistic, you could say that that it was a good win, but there are still some things to work out if they want to be real contenders. And the thing is, they are all correct.
The Game itself was good, one of the few Fire games this year that could be called that. Both teams came in and executed their game plans. It was cagey and nothing really happened for the first few minutes. Both teams passed the ball with a high success rate early, and possession was swapped with good tackling or attacks harmlessly petering out.
That’s when the Fire found themselves with a corner. Nico Gaitán played it toward the penalty spot, where a crowed of players from both teams were gathered. Brandt Bronico got a head to it and flashed it wide of goal on the Fire’s right hand side, where Bastian Schweinsteiger moved to control it. And then, he waited. And Waited. And Waited. The last player I can recall being so patient was Cuauhtemoc Blanco, and much like Blanco, his patience was rewarded. Der Fußballgott found Dax McCarty breaking free of his mark, and slid him the ball. The captain hit it without taking a touch, and the Fire were up 1-0.
The Fire went up 2-0 a short while later. An interception by Francisco Calvo close to midfield was swiftly moved toward Aleksander Katai. He sent in a perfect cross on the ground onto Nemanja Nikolic’s right foot. Unlike many times before today, he did not miss.
The Fire were feeling good two goals up and it looked like the story was going to change, but then the old Fire started to peak out and the season long plague of goalkeeping errors blowing games reared it’s tiresome head.
The Fire back line was beat by a long ball after a sustained bit of high pressure. The back line pinched up a little too far, and and a nice pass found Saphir Taïder on the run. Kenneth Kronholm reacted late and went into him feet first instead of hands first, missing the ball completely and giving away a penalty and a yellow card. The Frenchman who won the penalty also scored it.
But it was fine. The Fire were up 2-1 at the half despite the goalkeeping blunder. They cushioned themselves by getting a two goal lead. All they needed was a quiet second half and they would go away three points richer. It almost happened, too. For half an hour, all was quiet. But then on a corner, Bacary Sagna got a running start against Francisco Calvo, who was zonal marking, and beat him to the ball, and it went into the net.
Here’s where the old narrative came haunting back into our lives. Discussions about zonal marking aside, we were now back to the Fire not being able to keep a lead due to poor defensive play. But unlike almost every other time, there was salvation in the form of Bastian Schweinsteiger. Again from a corner, this time from Djordje Mihailovic. His perfect cross was nodded down by the German World Cup winner and that was that. 3-2 final. Fire win.
This is the third time I’ve had to write this recap. The first time was at halftime, where The Fire were up 2-1 and my conclusion was that it was still a good performance, and that they had won the game that earlier in the year, their goalkeeper would have blown. The second draft was right after Bacary Sagna scored the equalizer. That one was about doom and gloom and false promises and the pain of hope. Than Bastian Schweinsteiger scored and so now you get this one.
Every conclusion that can be drawn from this game is true. It’s true that the Fire played like the best version of themselves. It’s true that they squandered a lead due to defensive and strategic errors. And it’s true that they had the grit and determination to go win the game.
Every narrative, from the positive to the negative coming out of this game is true. Ultimately, what story this game tells is that for a single night, the Fire have staved off disaster. The season is not over. The Fire are three points out of a playoff spot once again, and have two big tests coming up next week. The Fire essentially need to win out to make the post season. There’s more writing to do.
The Chicago Fire (7W, 10L, 9D, 30pts, 10th place) are back at it on Wednesday at Portland when they take on the Timbers.