Can Anyone Stop Nikolic?

2017-05-17 CHI v COL

(Photo courtesy chicago-fire.com)

Chicago Fire striker Nemanja Nikolic continued his torrid form on Wednesday, notching two goals in the Fire’s 3:0 wipeout of the Colorado Rapids at Toyota Park. The victory kept the Fire undefeated at home this season. Overall, the Fire have 18 points from their 11 matches and they are unquestionably on a roll.

And no one has been on a roll more than Nikolic, who is the league’s top goalscorer, with 10 goals. After a few unremarkable performances early in the season, where Nikolic was frequently caught offside, the striker has been almost unstoppable, scoring at least one goal in six of his last seven games. No Fire player in club history has reached the 10-goal mark in fewer games than Nikolic has. Mike Magee had set the previous mark in 2013, scoring 10 times in his first 16 matches.

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“The Smiles Are Back in Bridgeview …”

2017-05-13 CHI v SEA

(Photo courtesy chicago-fire.com)

Those were the words of Chicago Fire coach Veljko Paunovic following his team’s 4:1 demolition of the Seattle Sounders at Toyota Park on Saturday. Nemanja Nikolic tallied two goals and an assist, while David Accam notched a goal and an assist. The Fire and Sounders engaged in a back-and-forth scrap in the first half and the Fire exploded for three goals after the break, as Chicago won the game in style.

And it wasn’t just the four-goal outburst that was impressive, it was the manner with which victory was achieved. The overall possession numbers favored Seattle 52%-48%, but the Fire dominated for long stretches in the second half. They moved the ball rapidly from player to player, always seeking the easy, open pass. After the Fire had scored the third and fourth goals of the match in quick succession, they broke the game down into an 11 v 11 keepaway exercise.

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Fire Go Jekyll and Hyde in LA

2017-05-06 LA v CHI

(Photo courtesy of mlssoccer.com)

The Chicago Fire finished off their third consecutive away match with a solidly earned point in a 2:2 draw versus the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday, but no one felt like celebrating. The Fire had roared out to a 2:0 lead in the first half in dominant fashion and seemed poised to bury the Galaxy. They could not complete the job, however, thanks to irresponsible defending during two Galaxy corner kicks in the second half.

The game had an air of craziness surrounding it right from the start. The Fire were up by a pair within 16 minutes, prompting Galaxy coach Curt Onalfo to replace captain and center back Jelle van Damme in the 33rd minute with Dave Romney. Then, midfielder Jermaine Jones was forced to withdraw just before the break due to injury. Los Angeles turned the momentum in their favor in the second half and managed to claw their way back to level things at 2:2. Fire coach Veljko Paunovic made his own curious substitution right after the equalizer, bringing on Michael de Leeuw for David Accam, whose play was responsible for both of the Fire’s goals, and who was a constant threat to the Galaxy backline.

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Fire Create Boatload of Chances, Sink in NY

2017-04-29 NYRB v CHI

(Photo coutesy mlssoccer.com)

The Chicago Fire traveled to Harrison, NJ to take on the New York Red Bulls last Friday, intent on snapping New York’s 18-match home unbeaten streak, and solidifying their place in the Eastern Conference table. The Fire were not afraid to push the game at the Red Bulls, but crucial mistakes in front of New York’s goal prevented the Fire from cashing in on the plethora of scoring chances that they conjured. The Red Bulls parlayed Fire errors on the defensive side into a 2:1 win. After eight games, the Fire remain on eleven points in a tight race in the East, where third place and eighth place are separated by just three points.

Will the Fire come to regret coming away with nothing from this match? Poor execution in the basics was their undoing. Some of it may be corrected as teamwork and cohesion improve, but other problems are inherent because talent is lacking. Coach Veljko Paunovic is going to have examine which players can be flexible in new positions, or whether his team can adapt to new tactics to overcome their weaknesses. The other option is for Nelson Rodriguez to bring in new players to compete for spots.

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Reality Bites Fire the Hard Way

2017-04-21 TFC v CHI

(Photo courtesy Associated Press)

The good feelings from the Chicago Fire’s three-game unbeaten streak faded quickly in the aftermath of their 3:1 defeat to Toronto FC on Friday at BMO Field. The home side had displayed rather indifferent form at BMO so far this season, so they definitely came out ready to play on Friday. The Fire won the possession battle 55% to 45%, but it felt as though they spent much of the contest in chase mode. The Fire now have eleven points from their seven matches and find themselves entrenched in a crowded Eastern Conference table.

The Fire were also on the wrong side of some poor refereeing from veteran arbiter Silviu Petrescu, who missed a shove by Jozy Altidore on goalkeeper Jorge Bava in the run-up to Toronto’s first goal. Then, in the second half, a Justin Morrow handball was adjudged to have occurred outside the penalty area, but the replay showed that Morrow was entirely inside the box when he handled the ball. In MLS, the margins between many teams are very thin. With points on the road so hard to come by, such fundamental errors can be game-changers.

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Engine Company: America’s Hat – A Tale of Chicago’s Evil Canadian Twin

Seeing The Men in Red play at home is really just half the fun, but not all Fire fans are able to see them anywhere else. To experience the joys of an Away Game by proxy, OTF contributor Jacob Peters provides us some background on Fire supporter group history on-the-road, established rivalries, and some footnotes on how to effectively criticize, troll, and generally enjoy Fire away games. 

Sing in full voice. Hate with reason…

Toronto is kind of like an alternate reality Chicago.  One in which we didn’t tear out our Streetcars in the 50s, decided to randomly insert “u’s” into our words unnecessarily, expanded Meigs Field into a discount airline hub, and never built the elevated portions of the “L”.  It’s also an alternate reality in which the Chicago Fire built a stadium downtown adjacent to McCormick Place (this guy’s still holding onto that dream), and then we expanded it with an epic roof.

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Toyota Park is nice, but this…drool

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Nikolic, Schweinsteiger Lead Evisceration of Revs

2017-04-15 CHI v NE image

(Photo courtesy chicago-fire.com)

The Chicago Fire extended their unbeaten run to three matches on the heels of a dominant 3:0 victory over the New England Revolution at Toyota Park on Saturday. The Fire treated the Revs the way a dog treats a fire hydrant, and made them like it. Nemanja Nikolic scored twice to complement Bastian Schweinsteiger’s opener, as the Fire climbed to third place in the MLS Eastern Conference.

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