Fire complete memorable May with home victory over FC Dallas
CHICAGO – A little over a month ago, they were in the background of sports in the Windy City as they were going through the process of rebuilding their team in the second year of a new head coach and general manager.
A few wins, a few losses is how the Chicago Fire started the season. Nothing terrible yet nothing big enough to snag the attention of anyone but the diehards of the franchise
Then Bastian Schweinsteiger arrived to provide a spark, so to speak. The international star brought immediate attention and legitimacy to the efforts of general manager Nelson Rodriguez and head coach Veljko Paunovic.
After that was the month of May, were the Fire lived up to their name in a defining 31 days for the franchise.
Thursday’s 2-1 win over FC Dallas at Toyota Park wrapped up an impressive 4-0-1 and has shot them towards the top of the Eastern Conference. At the moment they sit in second place, just two points behind MLS leader Toronto FC as the memorable month ends for the Fire.
The 24 points in 13 games ties the franchise record for best start, equalling the totals reached by the 1998 and 2001 clubs. Perhaps that’s a good sign, since the first squad won the team’s only MLS Cup and the latter made the team’s last championship game.
“I think there is still more improvement to come and I think it’s what I expect to be progressive,” said Paunovic of the May run for the team, keeping the start in perspective. “I don’t want to see the team, if we can jump from this level to the top level which is required to be successful to reach the playoffs, I would be happy only if we can sustain it.
“I think good progression that we have right now is something that is actually winning the games obviously, it is better to manage.”
While not getting ahead of himself, Paunovic has to like the fact his team has shown incredible growth in their last five games. After a tie against the LA Galaxy on May 6th, the Fire caught the eye of the MLS and their fan base with a 4-1 win over defending league champion Seattle at home.
It was followed by a triumph over Colorado on the 17th, a win at DC United by a goal on the 20th and then Thursday’s win over FC Dallas. Another one of the great stories of the team – Nemanja Nikolic – got things going early at home as he scored his MLS-leading 11th goal just three minutes into the game.
After FC Dallas evened the contest three minutes later, David Accam fired in another goal in the tenth minute to extend his scoring streak to a franchise-record five games. The Fire defense held off their opponents the rest of the way to improve their home record to an impressive 6-0-1 on the season.
It’s a month the Fire will have some time to reflect upon since they don’t play again until a trip to face Orlando City FC on June 4th.
“Great, we have 24 points now,” said Schweinsteiger after the win. “It was very important to win this match at home before we have a little break, so we’re happy.”
They should be. It’s been a while since there has been this much excitement on the pitch in Bridgeview as there was over the past month.