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.