MONTREAL – Chicago Fire fans, it's been awhile.
The Fire snapped their 36-game road winless streak with a 3-0 victory over the Montreal Impact at Saputo Stadium Saturday night. It was their first victory away from home since they beat the New England Revolution, 1-0, in Foxborough, Mass. on July 12, 2014.
The road win, which ended a club-record nine-game road losing streak, had been a long time coming for head coach Veljko Paunovic, who came into the post-game press conference all smiles.
"I would like to dedicate this victory to our fans who have been waiting passionately," he said.
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Midfielder David Accam admitted the drought felt like much longer than two years, 28 days. "It feels like we haven't won on the road in ages. Tonight's win feels like something came off our shoulders," he said.
Luis Solignac opened the scoring in the 15th minute. Solignac joined the slumping Fire in a trade from the Colorado Rapids at the beginning of the month. His first goal in a Chicago uniform was a foot race, outrunning the Impact's defenders on the counterattack following a failed corner.
"We really needed this," he said. "I was brought to score goals, to bring energy. It's important that I score."
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The scoring was rounded out by Accam in the 73rd minute in a bizarre deflection that trickled past Impact keeper Evan Bush. Matt Polster put the nail in the coffin in the 89th minute. Both goals were assisted by Arturo Alvarez.
The resounding message from the locker room is that it wasn't just a win, but a message. Not only did the Fire control the pace of play, they maintained a clean sheet against Montreal's dual threat of Didier Drogba and Ignacio Piatti. The two Impact stars were largely held to the perimeter and far from keeper Sean Johnson.
"Obviously they are established players not only in this league but around the world," said Johnson. "We've been searching for a clean sheet for a while, especially on the road."
That's not to say he had an easy night. Johnson had some spectacular saves – especially off dangerous free kicks from Drogba.
With these three points the Fire, still last in the Eastern Conference, draw a little bit closer to striking distance of a playoff spot. They currently sit five points behind sixth place D.C. United.
"I've been in this league for almost two years and I know it's going to get really close in the last few games," said Solignac.
With 11 games left in the season, Paunovic acknowledges, "it's a long way to go but we recognize where we are and what we have to do."
Kelly Greig is a contributor to MLSsoccer.com.