Luka Stojanović wasn’t supposed to start Sunday’s match between the Chicago Fire and New York Red Bulls at Soldier Field.
Stojanović was slated to be on the bench, a place he’s spent much of the last two months for the Fire. But when Álvaro Medrán was ruled out at the last minute due to health and safety protocols, Stojanović got his shot—and he ran with it, scoring a brace in the first eight minutes of the match, lifting the Fire to a 2-1 win.
“I was out for some games,” Stojanović said. “And this was a coach decision that I don’t want to go on that because I work hard every day. And I will enjoy this time now and I think I proved myself to me also, to all staff, and all my teammates that have played. And this is the best way to look (forward). I cannot look back, I know I was on the bench, sometimes I didn’t even come in, but that’s soccer so I have to go forward. This is the best way, today, to show to people that they can believe in me.”
The Serbian’s first goal came in the second minute, an absolute screamer from outside the 18-yard box off a nifty assist from Chinonso Offor, who was again starting over Robert Berić. Stojanović scored his second just six minutes later, smashing home a volley when a monster throw in from Carlos Terán bounced his way at the far post after an errant Red Bulls header.
Stojanović began the season as the Fire’s hottest player, scoring three goals in the first few matches. But after Raphael Wicky moved the team to a 3-5-2 in June, Stojanović has found himself the odd man out, making occasional appearances off the bench.
Wicky admitted Stojanović’s Man of the Match performance Sunday night will give him something to consider going forward.
“He definitely showed that we can count on him and that he’s there,” Wicky said. “So, if the player performs like that and then has a good week in training, then I don’t see a reason why he should not keep getting minutes. The reason why he didn’t play, without going into many details, it’s always the question of finding the right balance, who is playing together, who brings what to the team against which team. That’s a little bit what a coach normally looks at when he puts a team together - what is the right balance.”
Wicky couldn’t say more about why Medrán was ruled out, but MLS rules say it could be for a number of reasons, including a positive COVID-19 test, an inconclusive test result, a quarantine related to being a high risk close contact. Wicky did note that 100-percent of Fire players and staff are now fully vaccinated.
After three games in eight days, the Fire now have a week between games. They’ll host the Columbus Crew at Soldier Field next Sunday night (5 p.m. CT, WGN-TV, CFFC Live) to close out a three game homestand, before hitting the road for six matches in a row. The Fire only have five more home games this season—four at Soldier Field, and one, the Sept. 29 match with NYCFC at another venue—likely SeatGeek Stadium. The team sits seven points out of the final playoff spot in the East, with a record of 4-9-5.
Chicago Fire FC: GK Shuttleworth, D Terán (Omsberg 67’), D Pineda, D Calvo ©, M Sekulić, M Herbers, M Giménez, M Stojanović, M Bornstein, F Collier (Berić 57’), F Offor
Subs not used: GK G. Slonina, GK Brady, D Espinoza, D Kappelhof, M Monis, M Gutiérrez, F Ivanov
New York Red Bulls: GK Coronel, D Duncan, D Edwards, D Tarek, D Tolkin, M Cásseres (Gutman 19’), M Davis, M Carmona (Fernandez 55’), M Clark (Barlow 74’), F Fábio, F Klimala
Subs not used: GK Meara, D Egbo, D Nealis, M Royer, M Amaya
Stats Summary: CHI / NY
Shots: 9 / 12
Shots on Goal: 3 / 4
Passing Accuracy: 67.2% / 81.2%
Saves: 3 / 1
Corners: 3 / 6
Fouls: 14 / 14
Offsides: 0 / 2
Possession: 37.7% / 62.3%