Despite USOC hiccup, "massive" victory keeps Chicago Fire optimistic playoff berth is within grasp
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – With a short-handed lineup for their third game in eight days, the Chicago Fire needed fortune to go their way in Saturday's game against Montreal.
They didn’t have to wait long to see which team fortune favored, either.
Joel Lindpere benefitted from timely deflection to score a sixth-minute goal goal, Dilly Duka found the ball right at his feet during a scramble in the box before scoring the second and Chris Rolfe headed a game-tying goal off the line in the waning minute.
“It was a massive, important, huge win,” head coach Frank Klopas said. “Credit to my players, they've never given up, and they never will until the end. Now we've just got to move ahead. It's a good feeling, and the commitment has got to be more from everyone, and it will, to reach our goal.”
Without their three leading scorers – Chris Rolfe, Patrick Nyarko and Mike Magee – in the starting lineup because of injury, coach Frank Klopas was forced to go with an not-so-familiar XI. Recently acquired forward Juan Luis Anangono made his first start alongside Alex, who has played in the midfield for most of the season, and captain Logan Pause made his first start in six weeks.
“One of the advantages that we have to having such a deep roster, we sometimes joke that we have two starting teams,” Pause said. “We have enough quality that, when you look around the locker room at the guys that aren't playing, there's a lot of guys that could be playing on different things, and I think it's a good thing.”
But perhaps the biggest contribution from a usual bench player came from Lindpere. The Estonian has tallied two goals and six assists in the last eight games despite only starting five.
“Patrick was out, but Joel, when he's called to step in, has done great,” Klopas said. “He scored a big goal and he worked hard defensively.”
The Fire moved to .500 for the first time this season after starting the season 2-7-1. They're now just two points behind Houston in fifth place with a game against the Dynamo in two weeks.
And to do so with a short-handed lineup and coming off of a disheartening US Open Cup loss was certainly a boost for a team that still believes in its playoff chances.
“This was just a massive game,” Klopas said. “We've been in this spot before and then obviously we didn't take advantage of it to be .500. We're running out of games, and they're massive games and we need points and we're right there.”