In a game between Eastern Conference foes already eliminated from the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs and boasting interim coaches, Chicago Fire FC outlasted FC Cincinnati in a 4-3 shootout Wednesday evening at TQL Stadium.

Chicago’s road victory arrived in the 93rd minute through midfielder Luka Stojanovic, whose right-footed rocket broke Cincy hearts after center back Tyler Blackett brushed home an equalizer in the 91st minute. With that back-and-forth, the hosts slipped closer to their third Wooden Spoon (last place in the overall league table) in as many seasons since joining MLS in 2019 as an expansion side – all while Chicago proved they won’t bow down without a fight.

Before then, Chicago thought they snagged a 71st-minute winner through midfielder Alvaro Medran when the Spanish midfielder curled home his second goal in as many games – this time via a stunning right-footed free kick that bent up and over the Cincinnati wall.

The goals bonanza began when Robert Beric bagged a first-half brace in quick succession, giving Chicago a 2-0 lead after strikes in the 14th and 17th minutes – both of which involved Przemyslaw Tyton pawing rebounds into his path. Beric’s first MLS double surfaced in tap-in fashion, with Cincy’s goalkeeper unable to corral a Mauricio Pineda shot and then another from Ignacio Aliseda shortly thereafter.

But the Orange & Blue punched back, with striker Brandon Vazquez factoring into two goals while playing alongside Brenner in their new 4-4-2 diamond shape. First Vazquez nodded along a Zico Bailey cross in the 28th minute that Luciano Acosta brushed home at the back post, then the former Atlanta United forward collected Ronald Matarrita's long ball in the 36th minute before equalizing with a nutmeg finish on goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina.

Blackett's goal was the benefactor of Matarrita's deep cross and required a deft redirection from eight yards out. But that was ultimately an afterthought when Stojanovic's howitzer followed a failed clearance and dipped under the crossbar.

Knotted at 2-2 following the halftime break, Chicago had the best chance to pull ahead in the game's middle-third when Federico Navarro unleashed a left-footed blast in the 57th minute. The midseason U22 Initiative signing forced a strong save from Tyton, which sent the ball off the post and out for a corner kick.

Goals

  • 14' – CHI – Robert Beric | WATCH
  • 17' – CHI – Robert Beric | WATCH
  • 28' – CIN – Luciano Acosta | WATCH
  • 36' – CIN – Brandon Vazquez | WATCH
  • 71' – CHI – Alvaro Medran | WATCH
  • 90'+1' – CIN – Tyler Blackett | WATCH
  • 90'+3' – CHI – Luka Stojanovic | WATCH

Three Things

  • THE BIG PICTURE: The Fire are now 2-1-2 across their last five games, but it’s ultimately a moot point considering they’ll miss the playoffs for the fourth straight year. Still, credit to interim coach Frank Klopas for driving them upstream. Cincy lost their eighth straight game and have won just once since late June. Things haven’t improved much since interim manager Tyrone Marshall took over for Jaap Stam, though that’s more a testament to the tall task that awaits new GM Chris Albright after he departed the Philadelphia Union's front office several weeks ago. 
  • MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Luka Stojanovic’s game-winner is surely an AT&T Goal of the Week frontrunner. The Serbian midfielder made his limited run-out matter after entering as an 86th-minute substitute, netting his eighth goal of the season.
  • MAN OF THE MATCH: Robert Beric’s brace sent Chicago on their way, giving him seven goals on the year. The Slovenian striker has been their most effective Designated Player in 2021, coming on strong late to put his scoring woes in the rearview.

Next Up

  • CIN: Saturday, Oct. 23 at Inter Miami CF | 8 pm ET (MLS LIVE on ESPN+)
  • CHI: Saturday, Oct. 23 vs. Real Salt Lake | 8 pm ET (MLS LIVE on ESPN+)