After three straight home outings without a win, the Chicago Fire on Saturday brought back the feel-good vibes that coursed through Toyota Park in the first 5-plus months of the season, gaining momentum as the match wore on to defeat D.C. United, 3-0. As the regular season hits the stretch run, check out some of the news and notes coming out of the match.
The three points earned on Saturday lifted the Men In Red to 48 points on the year with five games remaining, and the Fire will be pleased when they look around the rest of Saturday's MLS scoreboard. NYCFC surrendered a late goal on the road at Colorado, leaving Chicago just three points back of second place in the East and with a visit from Patrick Vieira's side coming on Sept. 30. Elsewhere, playoff-positioned Columbus and Atlanta each settled for draws, while Montreal was done in at home by Minnesota.
Niko Back on Track
Nemanja Nikolic was off to an active start Saturday night but saw two promising shots saved in stellar fashion by D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid. After a solid all-around shift, Nikolic was rewarded in the 90th minute when he stepped up to take a penalty earned by Luis Solignac, firing past Hamid to ice the win and tie Ante Razov's Chicago Fire single-season goals record (18, set in 2000). With goals in his last two games, Nikolic's next chance to gain sole possession of the club's scoring mark will come next Saturday in Philadelphia.
The Fire continue to cement 2017 as one of the strongest regular seasons in club history. Consider —
- Home Form:
- The Fire are now 11-2-2 at home this year, tying the 2012 team for the third-most home wins in club history.
- Chicago has outscored opponents by a margin of 37-11 at home. The 37 home goals trail only the 1998 and 2000 teams for most in a season (both 40), while the 11 goals conceded at home are currently one better than the single-season record of 12 set in 2003.
- The 11 home wins also are tied with Toronto FC for most in MLS this season, as of Saturday night.
- Overall: Chicago is 14-9-6 this season, and with its next win would reach a win total not met by the club since 2005.
- Scoring Summary: The Men In Red now stand at 52 goals on the year, the fourth-highest total in club history. Their next goal will tie them with the 2003 squad for third.
The Rest of the Story
- Defender Brandon Vincent scored the game's crucial second goal with a diving header in the 62nd minute. It was Vincent's second MLS goal and his second in his last three starts, with the first coming back on July 5 just prior to an extended absence due to injury.
- Arturo Alvarez made his first start since July 22 and delivered the assist on Vincent's goal, the 32-year-old's second assist of the season and 30th of his career.
- Matt Lampson improved to 12-12-8 in his career as a Fire starting goalkeeper, picking up his 11th shutout as a member of the Fire in the process.
- With both Bastian Schweinsteiger (calf) and Juninho (left knee) both unavailable for the match, Veljko Paunovic plugged Homegrown midfielder Drew Conner into central midfield alongside Dax McCarty. Conner was credited with the secondary assist on Vincent's goal, the first helper for Conner in MLS.
- Central defender Joao Meira appeared in his first match since sustaining a calf injury back on August 16. Meira entered as a 71st-minute substitute, while Johan Kappelhof and Jonathan Campbell again served as the starting duo in the middle of the back four Saturday night.
- Chicago completed a season-sweep of D.C. United, having also earned a 1-0 win at RFK Stadium on May 20. The Fire's back-to-back wins over D.C. come after a nine-game winless streak against D.C. and raised Chicago's all-time record in the series to 20-22-15.