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On Fire: Last-gasp win ends suffocating streak

The Chicago Fire’s long nightmare is finally over. Eleven games and 78 days since their last victory, the Fire got a stoppage-time goal from forward Cristian Nazarit to beat Columbus 1-0 at Crew Stadium Sunday.

This week’s On Fire breaks down the long-awaited victory, focusing on three important takeaways.

1. Fire elated after win

Emotions ran high for the Fire when the final whistle blew Sunday, with interim head coach Frank Klopas exuberantly embracing his staff and teammates hugging each other on the field.

It was instantly clear that the winless streak, which claimed the job of former head coach Carlos de los Cobos, greatly wore on the team.

“I felt that the guys were pushing until the end,” Klopas said. “From a soccer standpoint, I felt both teams played well and it was a very good game to watch and different than our last game. I felt like that suited us better and it was great to get points here in Columbus, which, like I said, is not an easy place to get points in.

“I’m really proud of the guys.”

Midfielder Patrick Nyarko and forward Orr Barouch, who set up the winning goal, felt similarly.

“It always feels good to get a win,” Nyarko said. “After an 11-game winless streak it feels extra good, especially on the road in Columbus, where it’s always tough to win. We came out to win, we kept it all out there and we fought ‘til the end.”

“It felt great,” Barouch said. “We needed a win. We had been getting a lot of ties and some games had not been going our way so we really needed this.

2. Big time Barouch

           WATCH: Barouch, Nazarit combine
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A second-half sub, Barouch came up big in the dying minutes on Sunday, setting up Nazarit’s stoppage time winner with a brilliant play.

The 19-year-old striker collected goalkeeper Sean Johnson’s long ball at the top right corner of the 18, playing a quick one-two with winger Dominic Oduro before dribbling into the box, weaving past Crew defender Julius James and hitting a shot on net. Columbus goalkeeper Will Hesmer couldn’t hold Barouch’s close-range effort and the rebound fell to Nazarit, who tapped in for the win. 

The goal wasn’t the only chance created by Barouch, who came on in the 67th minute for Gaston Puerari. The on-loan forward hit the crossbar with a shot from just outside the left edge of the box in the 79th minute

3. One streak ends, another continues

Chicago also upped their shutout streak to three consecutive games, all three played in the new Klopas era. The Fire were excellent defensively throughout Sunday’s game, stifling the Crew attack and not giving up a shot on goal all match.

“I think we wanted to focus on a couple of things, be better at defending as a team and not giving up goals on set pieces, which we had in the past,” Klopas said. “The Crew is a very good team on set pieces, especially with [defender Chad] Marshall who had scored some big goals against us in the past. So if you take away that opportunity, you can go and try to win the game.”

It’s been 286 minutes since the Fire last conceded. They’ve still yet to be scored on since Klopas took over on May 30.

Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com.  Email him at sam.h.stejskal@gmail.comand follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.