Nikolic de leeuw jersey

Nikolic dedicates celebration to injured teammate Michael de Leeuw: "This goal was for him"

In what turned into a memorable night for the league's Golden Boot leader, Chicago Fire forward Nemanja Nikolic got the party started early by notching his 22nd goal of the season just three minutes into Sunday's 3-2 come-from-behind victory against the Philadelphia Union.

 

It's #️⃣2️⃣2️⃣ for @niko_nemanja! #CHIvPHI #DigDown

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In lieu of his usual fist pump or knee slide celebration, Nikolic ran to the Fire bench to grab and hoist up a Michael de Leeuw jersey in honor of his recently injured teammate.

"This goal was for him," Nikolic said. "Just to show him that we love him and we wait for him to get back. He's a really important part of this team, a real fighter, a real teammate."

The Dutch attacker was injured in the Fire's last outing -- a 1-1 home draw with NYCFC on Sept. 30 -- and diagnosed with a season-ending ruptured left ACL. He'd played 30 games this season with 26 starts, picking up three goals and eight assists as the engine of the Fire attack.

"He helped me a lot from my first day when I came here," Nikolic said. "When I had bad momentum, he was close to me, gave me advice sometimes. It helped me. It's good when you have a player who plays in a similar position like you, but he want to help you. He's a real sportsman."

Nikolic went on to score his 23rd and 24th goals in what became a match full of memorable happenings, none more so than the moment of love shown to the Lion.

"We wish him all the best and we wait for him to get back," Nikolic said. "He knows this, and I just wanted to show the players, club, supporters, everybody is behind him."

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