Xherdan Shaqiri golazo helps Chicago Fire back into "playoff hunt"

Chicago Fire FC just keep climbing the Eastern Conference table, now sitting two points beneath the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs line following a 3-1 win over Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Saturday night.

The result propelled them to five wins in their last eight games, including three straight. The Windy City bunch are clicking with just over one-third of their 2022 season remaining.

“The guys are buzzing, man,” said midfielder Chris Mueller, one of three scorers at BC Place.

The win at Vancouver was Chicago’s second road victory of the year, and it comes with half of their 12 remaining games away from Soldier Field. It was their last cross-conference game of the year, meaning plenty of six-pointers against fellow East postseason competitors are ahead these next two-and-a-half months.

The job’s certainly not done for a club that’s made the playoffs just once from 2013-21. But for the first time since a five-game unbeaten streak to start the year, Chicago are enjoying a consistent run of success.

“It's a very big win for us, probably one of the bigger wins that we've had this year,” said first-year head coach Ezra Hendrickson. “ … Even when the game was tied 1-1 in the second half, I had no doubt that we were going to win the game. Just because we were playing so well, and I knew that eventually we'll get the goals that we needed.”

Those goals came in the 13th minute through club-record signing Xherdan Shaqiri, in the 76th minute through center back Rafael Czichos and then in the 90th minute via Mueller. In bang-bang fashion, the Fire opened their first three-game winning streak since the 2017 season.

Shaqiri, who now has a team-leading eight assists on the year, is one of a few veterans on the squad. The 30-year-old has played for storied European clubs like Liverpool, Bayern Munich before arriving in MLS this offseason for a $7.5 million transfer fee from Lyon – offering plenty of perspective on their ups and downs.

“Man, it's all about belief in yourself and every player has to stay confident and to try to work hard, first of all, in training, and to learn from mistakes,” Shaqiri said. “ … The players, their understanding is much better than before.”

Up next, Chicago will return when hosting direct competitor Atlanta United next Saturday (5 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+). They’ll be riding the momentum of the club’s first-ever win in Cascadia in MLS regular-season action.

“It’s just good to be back in that playoff hunt,” Hendrickson said. “That's where we wanted to be all along the entire year and we're happy we're here. As I told them just now, we have to continue to do this. Don't become complacent.”