What could have been a letdown following Wednesday night’s ouster from US Open Cup play, resulted in the Fire trouncing an opponent 4-0 for a second consecutive home match and assuming first place in the MLS table and a lead in the Supporters Shield race. Toronto FC’s 3-1 loss in Dallas combined with the Fire’s win pushed Chicago two points clear for top honors in the league. It is the first time since 2005 that Chicago has led the league in total points after at least 18 games.
It is a testament to the leadership and professionalism in the locker room that they were able to put the penalty kick loss aside and continue to build on their home record while facing a team on full rest. The absences of Dax McCarty and David Accam make this victory all the more impressive and is another clear indication that this Fire team will be a force to be reckoned with for hardware this season.
The Fire made this look easy again en route to their club-record tying eighth consecutive home win and tenth league game without a loss. Nemanja Nikolic continued his record pace goal scoring heroics, Arturo Alvarez contributed a golazo, and at long last Michael de Leeuw broke his personal season-long goal drought.
“We had to work a lot on the mentality of the group and actually this win today helps us as a team to understand that everything we were saying and preaching that it’s possible,” said Veljko Paunovic after the match. “Fantastic performance, fantastic mood, the mentality was great and that’s how great teams play but we still have to work a lot to become a great team.”
The Fire face Portland on the road this coming Wednesday night before the Gold Cup break and end the month of July away to New York City FC and Sporting Kansas City. All three of those games are also tests of character but this team seems to have a lot of that.
Player ratings (to follow)