Chicago Fire lock up first playoff berth in five years with win at San Jose

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SAN JOSE – A year ago, this would have seemed like a long shot. Over the past few months, it seemed like a formality.

Either way, Wednesday night was a special moment in the 20 year history of the Chicago Fire. It wasn’t for a championship, but it’s the first major step towards title contention for the still rebuilding franchise.

A 4-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday night at Avaya Stadium locked up the team’s first playoff berth since the 2012 season. The Fire will have one of the six spots in the Eastern Conference playoffs which begin at the end of October.

It marks the first major achievement for second year head coach Veljko Paunovic and general manager Nelson Rodriguez. With big name international additions like Bastian Schweinsteiger, Nemanja Nikolic, Johan Kappelhof, Michael de Leeuw, and David Accam the last two years, the Fire have spent most of this season towards the top of the standings.

Nikolic not only would help the team to a historic night, but he also broke a major team record. After a pair of first half goals by Djordje Mihailovic and Luis Solignac, Nikolic added his Fire-record 19th score of the year to make it 3-0.

He passed Ante Razov’s previous record of 18 in 2000 with that score and then proceeded to add another goal to finish out a historic night for himself and the team in San Jose.