BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. (Aug. 17, 2019) – On fan appreciation night, the Chicago Fire (8-11-9, 33 points) -- playing a man down for the entire second half -- recorded its seventh clean sheet of the season in a 2-0 win over first place Philadelphia Union (13-8-6, 45 points). With the victory, the Fire moved within one point of a playoff position in the Eastern Conference.
Forward Nemanja Nikolić provided both tallies in the game to notch his 49th and 50th career regular season goals, which now ranks as the second-most in Club history, surpassing Chris Rolfe to move behind only Ante Razov. Nikolić, who has a Club-high six goals in five league appearances against the Union, has found the back of the net in four consecutive games.
The Fire opened the game with a clear chance to take the lead in the eighth minute when forward CJ Sapong came close to scoring against his former club. The play started on the left side of the field when Nikolić combined with midfielder Nicolás Gaitán for a textbook give-and-go with Nikolić playing a piercing ball through the six-yard box for Sapong. The forward – currently the second leading scorer for the Fire – slid to redirect Nikolić’s pass on target, but a deflection prevented the Men in Red from taking an early 1-0 lead (WATCH).
The Fire would eventually take the lead in the 38th minute when Nikolić scored his first goal of the game. The goal came after defender Johan Kappelhof and midfielder Przemysław Frankowski executed another selfless give-and-go. Frankowski, the Poland international, played a perfectly placed pass through the six-yard box for Nikolić, who carefully snuck the ball inside the near post (WATCH).
With the goal, Nikolić notched his 10th of the season, marking his third straight campaign with double-digit goals. Razov is the only other player in Club history to score 10 or more goals in three consecutive seasons, accomplishing the feat from 1998-2000. The goal also marked Frankowski’s seventh assist of the season. Frankowski, who tallied an assist for a second straight game, ranks second on the team for assists in 2019 (Gaitán 9). Kappelhof recorded his third assist of the season. Frankowski and Fire captain Dax McCarty bobbleheads were fan appreciation night giveaways at tonight’s game.
The Fire doubled its lead in the 43rd minute after Sapong, jockeying for position on a Gaitán corner kick, was brought down inside the 18-yard box by defender Aurelien Collin, resulting in a penalty kick for the home side (WATCH). Stepping up to the spot, Nikolić confidently buried the ball into the far left corner to notch his 50th regular season goal (WATCH). The finish marked Nikolić’s fifth goal in his last four appearances.
Heading into the halftime break, the Fire were reduced to 10 men when Gaitán was shown a straight red card for a tackle from behind in the third minute of first-half stoppage time.
Despite going a man down, the Men in Red continued its strong play to open the second half when Sapong received a low cross from Nikolić and fired a close-range attempt that rattled off the underside of the crossbar in the 47th minute (WATCH).
On the other end of the field, goalkeeper Kenneth Kronholm recorded four saves in the match as he posted his third clean sheet of the season and his second in the month of August (1-0 at Houston Dynamo on August 3). In the 69th minute, Kronholm reacted quickly to catch a deflected shot from midfielder Haris Medunjanin (WATCH). In the dying seconds of the game, with the Union pushing for a goal, the German-American goalkeeper produced his final save of the night on Jack Elliott’s powerful header in the 94th minute (WATCH).
Looking ahead, the Fire will play its next two matches on the road. On Aug. 24, the Fire will travel to face the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium. Beginning at 6:30 p.m. CT, the match will be broadcast live on ESPN+ and transmitted locally in Spanish on Univision Radio 93.5 Latino Mix. The pregame show on ESPN+, presented by CIBC, will begin at 6:15 p.m. CT.
Chicago Fire 2:0 Philadelphia Union
CHI - Nikolić (10) (Frankowski 7, Kappelhof 2) 38’
CHI - Nikolić (11) (Penalty kick) 45’
PHI - Collin (Caution) 43’
CHI - Gaitán (Ejection) 45’+3’
PHI - Monteiro (Caution) 66’
Chicago Fire: GK Kronholm, D Kappelhof, D Schweinsteiger, D Calvo, D Bornstein (Lillard 90’+4’), M McCarty©, M Bronico, M Frankowski, M Gaitán, M Sapong, F Nikolić (Azira 77’)
Subs not used: Sánchez, Marcelo, Mihailović, Campos, Moreno
Shots: 5 Shots on goal: 3 Fouls: 13 Offsides: 3 Corners: 2
Philadelphia Union: GK Blake, D Wagner, D Collin (Aaronson 80’), D Elliott, D Gaddis (Wooten 57’), M Medunjanin, M Bedoya©, M Creavalle (Ilsinho HT), M Monteiro, F Fabián, F Przybylko
Subs not used: GK Bendik, McKenzie, Picault, Real
Shots: 18 Shots on goal: 3 Fouls: 12 Offsides: 2 Corners: 7
Referee: Joe Dickerson
Assistant Referees: Brian Dunn, TJ Zablocki
Fourth Official: Dave Gantar
VAR: Younes Marrakchi