After assisting on a goal for the third time in four games, Chicago Fire head coach Veljko Paunovic said this of second-year defender Brandon Vincent following the team's 2-1 win over FC Dallas back on May 25:
“He's the player that can keep the ball, he can keep the possession, he can support the possession and have dangerous crosses like today [and] assists in the final third...We encourage him to be dangerous."
On Wednesday night in front of a Portland crowd of 21,000+, Vincent took his danger level up another notch.
In the 61st minute of a 1-1 game, the 23-year-old settled a low cross from midfielder Arturo Alvarez inside the top of the Portland 18-yard box and fired his first-career MLS goal hard off the crossbar and into the net to give his visiting side the lead.
"I didn't know what to do with myself," Vincent told CSN's Dan Kelly and Frank Klopas after the match. "I'm just glad it went in. It was a great ball from Artie (Alvarez) and I was in a good place. Good team effort."
In what has been a breakout season for the Stanford product, Vincent has been an iron man of sorts for the Fire in 2017. He's played every minute of the season so far -- including two matches in the U.S. Open Cup -- and is the only Fire player to have done so. And while he's no stranger to scoring (13 goals in college!) his strike prompted Klopas to ask Vincent if he'd been doing finishing drills with MLS Golden Boot leader Nemanja Nikolic.
"I've just been watching him, what he's been doing in all the games," he laughed. "I'm trying to take after him a little bit."
While Wednesday night's contest ultimately resulted in a 2-2 draw after Portland's Sebastian Blanco leveled for good nine minutes later, Vincent and the Fire were able to secure a road point that pushed their unbeaten run to eleven-straight games and drew them even with Toronto FC on 38 points at the top of the Eastern Conference.
Gutsy performance by the guys on the road. Amazing feeling getting on the scoresheet for the first time Thanks for the support! #cf97— Brandon Vincent (@BrandonVincent) July 6, 2017
"Obviously a win would have been the best feeling, but a point in a tough place to play...we showed our strength, showed our grit," Vincent said. "I think it's encouraging going into the break and we'll get better from it."
Vincent and the Fire will look to carry their first-place momentum into a 17-day break coinciding with the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Their MLS campaign resumes on Saturday, July 22 at Yankee Stadium when they take on Eastern Conference contenders New York City FC at 1 pm CT (CSN Chicago Plus).