The Fire resoundly defeated a Colorado Rapids team that currently sits at the bottom of MLS. The result was expected but what makes the win impressive is that it comes on the heels of the 4-1 win over Seattle just four days before. Chicago's form at home (5-0-1) has been convincing enough to allow even the most cynical of supporters to believe that this team will seriously challenge for a playoff spot in the East.
Chicago had control from the start and continued to press throughout the match with little challenge from a struggling Colorado side. Perhaps the biggest indicator of change for the Fire these days is that wins are now expected at home. Winning on the road is another story, however. They'll get a chance to really raise some eyebrows at DC United this weekend.
They'll need wins on the road at some point even if they manage to come away with 13 or so victories at Toyota Park this season. That may not be enough to get them in to post season. Following the DC match away, there's another good test on the horizon with FC Dallas coming to Bridgeview near the end the month.
Supporters can now, at the very least expect a challenge.
Matt Lampson (6) - He wasn't tested often since Colorado only mustered 3 shots on target but he was sharp when he needed to be. Did well to deny Gashi of a chance in the 72nd and stopped a potential own goal clearance from finding the back of the net in the 81st. Distribution was also better.
D Brandon Vincent (6.5) - Continues to provide good service as seen in his pinpoint cross to Nikolic for the first Fire goal. Solid on both ends of the field. Only negative was the clearance that nearly ruined the clean sheet in the 81st.
D Joao Meira (6.5) - Both Fire centerbacks have done very well to limit clean looks in the last two home games. 8 recoveries and 7 clearances is a good night.
D Johan Kappelhof (6.5) - Committed team defending kept Badji and Gordon from getting anywhere close to a good chance. Kappelhof and Meira have played very well at home. 4 recoveries and 5 clearances aren't big numbers but he's the key in the middle of the defense.
D Matt Polster (7) - Save for one errant cross near the end of the first half, Polster added another dimension to the Fire attack with his ability to get forward from the right side. He was key in another perfect passing sequence in the 59th that resulted in the Fire's second goal. He was also in good form defensively with 3 clearances and 10 recoveries, all while completing 51 of 57 passes and adding 3 key passes....from right back.
M Dax McCarty (6.5) - A look at McCarty's Opta sheet shows that he was all over midfield. He completed over 90% of his passes and teamed with Schweinsteiger to thoroughly dominate Colorado on the ball. Possession ended up 57-43 in favor of Chicago but it seemed even more tilted toward the home side when it counted.
M Bastian Schweinsteiger (6.5) - His heat map looks similar to McCarty's with positive activity all over the pitch. Sitting ahead of the back line in a 4-2-3-1 with freedom to get forward suits his style and the pairing with McCarty provides the Fire with potentially the best CM duo in the league. Colorado had no answers in the middle of the field.
M David Accam (6.5) - Cleaned up the final ball in the 59th for the second goal but Accam also contributed with another good overall field game. Seems to work very well in this alignment with this combination of players on the field. One botched 2v2 where he should have passed in the 51st was the only real negative play.
M Michael de Leeuw (6.5) - With Nikolic, Accam, Schweinsteiger and others picking up the plaudits someone has to do the non-highlight work. de Leeuw and Solignac have done that when the Fire are successful. He missed at a chance for his first goal of the year when he whiffed in front of the net in the 59th but made up for it with a hard run up the right side and a perfect pass to Nikolic for the third goal in the 74th.
M Luis Solignac (6.5) - Played a part in the second goal with a return pass to Polster to keep the playing moving quickly. Didn't have a ton of touches against his former team but the Fire had control of midfield through the middle. Good support game.
F Nemanja Nikolic (7.5) - Continued his hot run with another brace and was also involved in the third goal sequence. His ability to put away chances has turned the Fire into a playoff contender. Clinical in the final third.
M Juninho (5.5) - Replaced Accam in the 60th minute with Fire leading 2-0. Completed passes at a high rate and drew a yellow card but it may be difficult for him to get back into the regular starting eleven if the starters can continue on this pace.
M Jonathan Campbell (5.5) - Came on in the 70th for Solignac as the Fire looked to seal the game and rest some players for Saturday. One ball trickled by him in the 72nd, setting up Colorado's best chance of the night.
M Djordje Mihailovic (5.5) - Subbed in for Schweinsteiger in the 76th. His one shot attempt from the top of the penalty area sailed high in stoppage time.