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Was the Chicago Fire’s win an anomaly, or the start of something better?

Despite scoring only one goal, the Fire were dominant against Inter Miami. Can they do it again against CF Montreal?

MLS: Inter Miami CF at Chicago Fire
Fire defender Mauricio Pineda (22) practices before the game against Inter Miami at Soldier Field. 
Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Shortly after the Chicago Fire secured three points against Inter Miami on Saturday, Mauricio Pineda hopped on a Zoom call with reporters to talk about the victory.

Pineda is very well trained at interviews. He’s extremely careful in the way he chooses his words. And on Saturday, during the euphoria of the team’s first win of 2021, he made a very good point to keep things in perspective.

“We’ve been working really hard for this moment, and it feels like the hard work finally paid off in a game, but that’s all it is, it’s just one win,” Pineda said.

He’s right. It’s just one win. The Fire still have plenty of issues to fix if they’re going to make it two in a row against CF Montreal (Saturday, noon CT, WGN & CFFC Live).

Chicago was very strong defensively, allowing only one shot on target, and avoiding the usual mental breakdown on a throw-in, or marking error on a corner kick that always seems to cost them a goal. But on the attack, the team could have scored quite a few more goals. Inter Miami goalkeeper John McCarthy was solid—making five saves—but a few of those were fired straight at him by striker Robert Beric. The Fire also have a strange habit of sending an exorbitant number of shots over the bar, a trend that continued against Miami.

All told, Chicago outshot Miami 20-4, and led the xG battle 1.9 to 0.8.

The xG stats from the match show Chicago’s dominance
MLSSoccer.com

The Fire were helped by the fact that Miami seemed sluggish—almost disinterested—and was content to settle for chippy fouls—a fact that bothered Miami’s coach.

“I thought from the very first whistle they were sharper than us to every ball,” Inter Miami coach Phil Neville said. “And in a football game...you’ve got to win the battle first, you’ve got to stay with runners, you’ve got to win tackles, win headers, you’ve got to be disciplined, you’ve got to defend well and if you don’t do that, you don’t win games of football.”

With Djordje Mihailovic back at Soldier Field for the first time since the trade, Montreal will probably come out flying. The Fire will need to cleanly finish chances when they come, and the defense will need to string together a second straight solid performance if the team wants another win before a lengthy break.

Like Pineda said, it’s just one win. The team dug itself a massive hole to start the season, and now it’s time to start making things right—and prove the Miami win wasn’t an anomaly.

The Fire’s captain agrees.

“We haven’t won anything,” Fire defender Francisco Calvo said. “Now, it’s just time to rest, time to focus on the next game. Hopefully they come, they support us and have our backs, and we’re going to give everything next Saturday again to try to win again.”