Chicago Fire 2 Nikolic 38’, Nikolic 45’
There’s a scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail that shows a death cart in the streets of a medieval village, where the bodies of the dead are being summoned to the cart by Sir Michael Palin screaming, “bring out your dead.” John Cleese presents to him an old man who is in fact, not dead, and feels fine. There’s a back and forth until Palin eventually kills him with a club to the back of the head.
If you haven’t guessed it by now, the Fire are the old man, and they most likley will eventually get hit on the back of the head with a club. However, tonight, they still found themselves arguing that they’ve never felt better, and that they’re going for a walk right to the MLS playoffs.
The first thirty seven minutes of the first half could be described as boring. Yes, the Fire had a few decent chances in front of goal; including a CJ Sapong whiff at point blank range, But other than that, it was an even game without much of anything going on.
Then in the thirty eighth, Johan Kappelhof found his way forward drawing defenders left and right. He picked Przemysław Frankowski out with a through ball toward the end line. The Polish international then crossed it onetime to the near post, where a suddenly hot Nemanja Nikolic ran on to it, and put a point blank chip past Andre Blake into the back of the net. Almost out of nowhere, the Fire were up 1-0 and looked in control of their own destiny.
Seven minutes later, they doubled their lead. Aurelien Collin pulled down CJ Sapong in the box while he was making a play for a cross, right in front of the referee. It was a no brainier of a call, and Niko stepped up to the spot, giving the himself a brace and the Fire a 2 goal lead, as well as etching himself into the history books, becoming the second Fire player to score double digit goals in three straight seasons alongside Ante Razov.
Meanwhile, Nico Gaitán had been having a poor performance. His quality of execution was not living up to his quality of ideas. He was not on the same page with his teammates, and while there were some flashes of brilliance, largely his creative ideas often ended up as turnovers. It finally caught up to him in the third minute of first half injury time. A missed back heel by him fell right to Jamiro Monteiro, and in a desperate lunge, he ended up coming from behind and colliding with the Union midfielder’s back foot. At first he was shown a yellow, but then the call was changed to a red, and after a short trip to the VAR monitor confirmed it, the Argentine was sent to the showers early to cool off, and for the second time in two games, the Fire were down to ten.
The Union did their best in the second half to try to score. They had several good chances and made Kenneth Kronholm work for it. Normally that would spell disaster for the Fire, but tonight, at least, the German-American was up for it, making big stop after big stop, ending the night with four saves and a clean sheet.
The defense as well did a tremendous job. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Francisco Calvo did great work stopping crosses and getting into passing lanes. Jonathan Bornstein was once again spectacular, just as we have come to expect from the veteran defender.
And Brandt Bronico, Brandt Bronico played the best game of his career tonight. He was absolutely smothering, and at one point got Monteiro to shove him top the ground for a booking.
This was a well-earned victory, and a very important one at that. Because of the loss to Portland, the Fire have to win out to make the playoffs. If they keep playing like this, it’s certainly possible. But it’s going to be hard to avoid Sir Michael’s club hitting them in the head. But for at least one more weekend, they get to feel happy.
The Chicago Fire (8W-11L-9D, 33 pts, 10th Place) next go to Foxboro to take on the New England Revolution next Saturday.