In the 38th minute of Saturday night’s visit from the Philadelphia Union, forward Nemanja Nikolić recorded his latest entry in the Chicago Fire history books.
In true Nikolić fashion, the 31-year-old found himself positioned perfectly inside the Union six-yard box to tap in a low, first-time cross from midfielder Przemysław Frankowski and deliver the Fire an early lead. The goal was Nikolić’s 49th career finish in MLS regular season play, surpassing Chris Rolfe (48) and giving him sole possession of second place on the Club’s all-time regular season scoring charts.
“I am happy that I have achieved this goal in a little more than two and a half years here,” Nikolić told reporters after the game. “I have learned that these kind of numbers give me hope that things that I do here are good. I just need to work hard and appreciate every single goal and opportunity that I have. My goal is also to help the team with these goals and to achieve the playoffs.”
For good measure, Nikolić added his 50th regular season goal via a penalty kick finish just seven minutes later as the first half came to a close. The 50 regular season goal mark is a milestone only achieved by one other Fire player, former forward Ante Razov.
Razov currently owns the Club’s career regular season scoring record, having put away 76 goals across seven seasons (1998-2004) in Chicago. Razov’s 18-goal campaign in 2000 had topped the Fire’s single-season scoring charts for 17 years, before Nikolić scored 24 goals in 2017 to claim both the new Club crown as well as the MLS Golden Boot Award.
That Nikolić’s achievement helped contribute to a 2-0 win over the Eastern Conference leaders made it that much sweeter.
"I think Niko proved that in our history of our club, not only was he reliable, he was very, very productive," head coach Veljko Paunović said. "All these goals matter a lot to the team first, and of course to his good reputation of a great goal scorer. He's bringing to the team an amazing spirit, selfless, he's the guy that always gives his best to the team."
Nikolić is now up to 55 goals scored for the Fire in all competitions -- factoring in his five finishes in Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play -- and has scored five goals in the Fire’s last four matches.
“I say it a lot, if you don’t believe in yourself, you can’t expect your coaches, teammates or supporters to believe in you,” Nikolić added postgame. “You need to work hard, wait for the situation and react when you have an opportunity to score again. I knew that I would start to score goals again, it was a discussion of time. I feel like everyone here believes in me and now I have scored in the last four games. I am happy about that and of course these three points because it was very important for us.”
Nikolić and the Fire resume their postseason push next Saturday night, Aug. 24, on the road against the New England Revolution (6:30 p.m. CT, ESPN+).