A game that entered halftime with the Fire in need of a spark ended with a much different feel to it, as Veljko Paunovic's side rebounded from two early goals conceded and rode a Nemanja Nikolic brace to three points that could prove critical in their final seeding for the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs. Here's a look at a few of the takeaways from Chicago's 3-2 come-from-behind win over the Philadelphia Union Sunday evening:
Moving On Up
By the time the four simultaneous Eastern Conference matches had concluded Sunday evening, there was some good news and not-as-good news for the Fire to digest. Although a Columbus road win prevented the Men In Red from officially clinching a home playoff match, the Fire had also leapfrogged Atlanta United for third place and clawed within one point of New York City FC for the coveted second-place spot in the table. Spots 2-5 in the conference remain very much up for grabs on Decision Day presented by AT&T, when a Fire road win at Houston coupled with an NYCFC draw or loss to Columbus would clinch second place and a knockout-round bye for the Fire regardless of other results. If the season ended today, the Fire would be hosting the sixth-seeded New York Red Bulls for a knockout-round clash at Toyota Park.
In short? Get ready for a dramatic Sunday afternoon when 11 MLS contests begin simultaneously at 3 p.m. CT.
Home Sweet Home
Chicago wrapped up one of the most impressive home seasons in club history on Sunday, closing the home portion of its 2017 schedule with 12-2-3 record and a goal differential of +27 (41-14). The 41 goals scored at home are the most-ever for the Fire in a single regular season, topping the 40 scored in both 1998 and 2000 (with one additional game played this year), while the 12 home wins are one off the record set in each of those same historic seasons. Nemanja Nikolic certainly fared as well as anyone in his debut season at Toyota Park, with 19 of his 24 goals coming in Bridgeview.
David Accam provided an undeniable spark to the home side with his halftime introduction, drawing the foul that led to Nikolic's equalizing penalty kick and later providing a spot-on pass ahead to Brandon Vincent that Vincent served to Nikolic for the game-winner. Accam now stands at 14 goals and 8 assists on the season in 2,106 minutes played this season; all three figures represent highs for his three years in Chicago.
This and That
- Defender Brandon Vincent delivered the primary assist on Nikolic's first and third goals, bringing his season assist total to five and giving him the first multi-assistant game of his career.
- 18-year-old Homegrown Djordje Mihailovic made his sixth start and 16th appearance of his rookie MLS campaign.
- With the win, the Fire regained the upperhand in the all-time series with Philadelphia (8-7-5) with a narrow 30-28 lead in goals scored. The Fire denied former club standout and current Union manager Jim Curtin his first coaching win in Bridgeview.
- The come-from-behind win was Chicago's first victory that came from a losing position this season.
- Chicago improved to 4-1-2 since the start of September.
And these two notes from the reliable Paul Carr to help put Nemanja Nikolic's hat trick in perspective:
Nemanja Nikolic joins Preki as the only players born in Yugoslavia to get an @MLS hat trick.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) October 15, 2017
Nikolic is the first Hungarian int'l with one.