It seemed like an inevitability after becoming the fastest 10-goal scorer in club history back in May, but it’s now official.
After slamming home a 90th minute penalty kick in Saturday’s 3-0 win over D.C. United at Toyota Park, Chicago Fire forward Nemanja Nikolic tied Ante Razov’s single-season club scoring record by picking up his 18th goal of 2017.
"Like always, it was important for a striker to finish the game with a goal,” Nikolic said. "I think I worked a lot. I had some opportunities in the first half. I feel that I deserved this goal. I am happy about the goal, about the victory today. It was really important, these three points. We are now really close to the playoffs. That is our goal.”
Razov’s mark has stood since 2000, when he finished with 25 goals and 15 assists across all competitions while helping lead the Fire to its second U.S. Open Cup championship, a Central Division title, and an MLS Cup appearance. The significance of matching Razov’s regular season mark is not lost on Nikolic.
"It’s amazing,” he said. "Like always, records exist to break them. It’s amazing that in my first year I broke such a big record for the striker. Of course, the club brought me here to score goals. I try to do this every single game. Thanks really to my teammates, to staff, to people who believe in me every single day, every single training. I try to give my best all the time."
Nikolic still has a way to go to level Razov's career impact with the Men In Red, as he remains the club's all-time leader in goals with 76 in MLS and 95 across all competitions. In the meantime, however, his Saturday night finish helped push the Fire to 48 points on the season, three back of second-place New York City FC as the Eastern Conference playoff race continues. Not unlike Razov in 2000, Nikolic will be hoping his goal haul translates into something greater for the club.
“We now need to push more,” he said. "The first part is to achieve the playoffs, and after that to see how high up we can go in the table. There are a couple games more to score some goals and to push, and to be better and better every single day, every single match.”
Nikolic has a chance to make the single-season record entirely his own when the Fire visit the Philadelphia Union next Saturday, Sept. 23, for a 6 p.m. Kickoff from Talen Energy Stadium (COZI TV).