Fire

Fire hold on to hand New England its first home loss

Fire hold on to hand New England its first home loss

The evolution of the Chicago Fire from doormat to championship contender took another big step on Saturday.

The Fire beat the New England Revolution 2-1 at Gillette Stadium with goals from Nemanja Nikolic and Luis Solignac.

It’s an impressive win because New England (5-6-5, 20 points) is a playoff contender which was undefeated at home.

The Fire (9-3-4, 31 points) took the lead in the 18th minute with Nemanja Nikolic getting behind New England’s defense and finishing his own rebound.


Both teams had chances in an open first half, but the Fire maintained control and added the second goal after a series of nice passes before Solignac finished it off in the 61st minute.


The Fire also won without David Accam, who was not even among the list of substitutes. With Accam out, Juninho stepped into the starting lineup and Bastian Schweinsteiger played a different role than his typical central midfield spot. Schweinsteiger played as a central defender, a bit of a sweeper/libero role, between Johan Kappelhof and Joao Meira.

New England adjusted at halftime, switching formations with forward Juan Agudelo replacing midfielder Scott Caldwell. The Revs had most of the possession in the second half and scored with a goal from Antonio Mlinar Delamea in the 70th minute. Schweinsteiger moved back to midfield soon after the goal when Jonathan Campbell entered the match and became the third central defender.

It was an all-out onslaught on the Fire’s goal in the final 15 minutes, but New England missed chance after chance that seemed destined to be the equalizing goal. The Revs finished with 24 shots, 18 of which came in the second half.

“Wins like this, suffering a little bit, but taking the three points is really important for the spirit of the group as well,” Solignac said on the CSN broadcast after the match.

The Fire are now unbeaten in nine straight games across all competitions and have matched last season’s point total with still a majority of the season remaining.

Special edition of the Fire Talk Podcast: What’s wrong with U.S. Soccer?

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AP

Special edition of the Fire Talk Podcast: What’s wrong with U.S. Soccer?

It's a special edition of the Fire Talk Podcast!

Dan Santaromita, Justin O’Neil, JJ Stankevitz and Tom Cooper try to answer all the questions that surfaced after the U.S. failed to qualify for the World Cup. What went wrong in qualifying, who was at fault, what can be fixed, will things get better? Has any American soccer fan calmed down even a week after? The four on the panel sure still are plenty fired up.

Notes from the rewatch: What stood out about the goals in Fire's win against Union

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USA TODAY

Notes from the rewatch: What stood out about the goals in Fire's win against Union

Normally when revisiting games there are trends or performances that stick out, but the most notable plays from Sunday's Fire win against Philadelphia were the goals.

Here's what stood out from the four goals that were scored from open play in the Fire's 3-2 victory.

Nikolic gives Fire early lead on long ball

Believe it or not this pass was a direct assist on the first goal of the game:

Brandon Vincent is barely beyond his own penalty box when he launches one for Nemanja Nikolic. The ball bounces three times before Nikolic gets his first touch on it. His second touch is a goal.

The pass itself is nothing special and a defensive error plays a part, but it's hard to believe a pass from that far back can result in an assist.

Philly’s first goal is a chain reaction

On the first goal for Philly, the play begins when Matt Polster is caught way too high in press. Philly was building out of back and Polster, the Fire's right back, pressed well past midfield to win a ball and didn't.

When he doesn’t win it, the ball falls to Fafa Picault behind him on the left wing. Next it's off to the races for the Union.

Center back Johan Kappelhof moves wide to cover for Polster and defend Picault, who makes a nice switch to Chris Pontius after the Fire appeared to be getting back in position. C.J. Sapong beats Joao Meira, who a minute before shook off a leg injury that forced him to have a significant limp after the match. Sapong probably had the edge in the first-step department at that point to get some separation. Kappelhof had to try to slide it away because Picault was waiting at the back post for a tap-in.


The Fire had a chance to recover, but it all started with Polster getting caught too high up the field.

Union string passes together to take lead

A Dax McCarty turnover gave Philadelphia possession and the Union combined passes for an impressive team goal. First it was eight straight passes before one was broken up, but Philadelphia immediately regained possession and connected 12 more passes. After an initial cross is headed away, the second pass after that is Haris Medunjanin chipping a pass to Alejandro Bedoya for the goal. Just an impressive team goal from the Union, even if goalkeeper Matt Lampson made things easier for Bedoya on the finish by coming off his line too early.

Nikolic shows his instincts for game-winner

As for the Fire’s third goal, just watch Landon Donovan and recently-fired New England Revolution coach Jay Heaps explain what happened:

(Note: The video appears to be down for some reason even though it's still linked on the homepage of MLSsoccer.com. The gist of it is that Nikolic did a great job delaying his run to find the space that set him up for the goal as opposed to crashing the six-yard box and being more tightly marked.)