On Fire: Anibaba comes of age in 3-2 win over Crew

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – The Chicago Fire’s season came to an emotional end on Saturday night when the Men in Red dramatically defeated the Columbus Crew 3-2 in front of a sold-out Toyota Park crowd.

This week’s On Fire looks at three of the main storylines to come out of Saturday’s match.

Anibaba’s active night

Rookie defender Jalil Anibaba had an incredibly active game on Saturday night, scoring his first career MLS goal in the 11th minute, completing a surprising brace in the 30th and botching an 80th-minute clearance that led to the Crew’s second goal of the game to knot the score.

But despite the performance, the University of North Carolina product was his usual deferential self after the game.

“I just tried to play my role today,” Anibaba said. “I was trying to be as stringent as possible on defense and trying to get my head in on set pieces. There are things I did well today and there are things I didn’t do so well. I’m just happy we finished off the season great and I’m looking forward to next season.”

Fellow center back Cory Gibbs – who assisted on Anibaba’s second goal – was a bit more effusive than his younger teammate.

“I’m especially proud of Jalil, whose rookie season ended with two goals,” said the 31-year-old Gibbs, who took the 23-year-old Anibaba under his wing this season. “I don’t think you could ask any more of the kid. When he was asked to step up he did it and made the most of the opportunities and did exceptionally well.”

Klopas comments on Pardo and Grazzini

Interim head coach Frank Klopas commented on the future of impact midfielders Pável Pardo and Sebastián Grazzini after the match on Saturday night, hinting that he’d like both players back in Chicago next year.

“They’re very good players,” Klopas said. “Obviously you see the tremendous help they’ve brought and how much they’ve helped this team and changed us in the second half of the season. The player decisions, all of that stuff will happen in the next couple of weeks.”

Both Pardo and Grazzini signed with Chicago in July and played huge roles in the team’s dramatic late-season turnaround. Pardo played in 13 MLS games, registering one goal and five assists from his defensive midfielder position. Grazzini appeared in 11 league matches, scoring five goals and tallying four assists.

Chicago were 7-3-3 when one or both of them were in the starting lineup.

Chaves scores another late winner

Forward Diego Chaves scored his second late game-winner in as many matches on Saturday, tapping in a close range rebound to put Chicago ahead 3-2 in the 81st minute. The goal was the Uruguayan’s sixth of the year.

Chaves broke a lengthy goal drought last week, when he scored a 94th-minute game winner in Chicago’s improbable 2-1 comeback win at D.C. United.

Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at sam.h.stejskal@gmail.com.