The Chicago Fire picked up their second win of the week on Wednesday night as they beat CF Montréal 3-0 at Soldier Field.
The contest was delayed for over an hour due to a tornado warning area, but that extra time didn’t prevent Chicago from flying out the blocks. Georgios Koutsias helped create two goals in the opening 10 minutes, and then Xherdan Shaqiri scored a screamer past the hour mark.
Despite all the chances that came on either side of the pitch for the rest of the match, that was the end of the scoring. The Fire kept the clean sheet, and secured three important points in the process.
Once the action actually got going, it got going quick as Chicago opened the scoring after less than 10 minutes. Georgios Koutsias drove forward with the ball, and after having it bounce back his way, he laid it off to Brian Gutiérrez. He did the rest, slotting home from close range to score his first-ever goal at home.
In a shocking turn of events it was 2-0 just moments later. The set-up was the same, with Koutsias dribbling down the line before cutting the ball back across goal. This wasn’t as clean, but the ball eventually fell to Maren Haile-Selassie, who then blasted the ball into the back of the net.
It could’ve been 3-0 shortly after. Gutiérrez flew forward on the counter and went for goal since he had so much space, but his effort was hit right at the goalkeeper.
Some time did go by, but it was eventually 3-0 for the hosts. A clever free-kick routine got the ball into the path of Xherdan Shaqiri, and he then blasted a strike into the roof of the net.
Montréal were handed a lifeline up the other end of the pitch, though, as the referee pointed to the spot following a handball by Rafael Czichos. Ariel Lassiter stepped up to take it, but he went too far for the corner, and he ended up hitting the post instead.
The frantic nature of the contest continued through the half-time break. The away side had more of the ball, but both sides threatened going forward.
Their last chance to really get back into the match came with 20 minutes remaining. Mason Toye found space on the left-hand side, but he dragged his promising attempt wide of the post.
The rest of proceedings came and went without much incident, meaning that the Fire ended the night with all three points.
What it means
Chicago vaulted Montréal in the standings with a win here, and they’re the ones now in the 9th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
There’s a lot of season left to go, but if recent results are any indication, the Fire should keep on climbing, while the Canadian outfit might keep slipping further and further down the standings.
Notes and observations
People make a lot of jokes about Chicago’s usually lack of attendance, which has been understandable, but tonight’s crowd deserves credit. It was a Wednesday night, there was a freaking tornado warning, and yet people still showed up.
I don’t mean this in a toxic way but I could’ve sworn Victor Wanyama retired a year and a half ago.
Has a Fire player ever started a game as hot as Georgios Koutsias started tonight’s game? The Greek youngster was flying around the pitch, and he was dancing past players on the ball.
Montréal need to be much better in their decision making on the counter. They had some genuine opportunities to hit on the break, even having a man advantage at times, but they kept letting themselves down. Either someone made the wrong run, or messed up a pass, or bottled the finish. If they can start converting, then the points should follow.
The away side’s play matched their kits, gray. (The jersey looks quality on TV and in photos but it’s not quite the same live.)
Chinonso Offor did put in a real shift off the bench. He fought for a goal the entire time he was out there, and he personally deserved more from the match.
Oh hey, that Xherdan Shaqiri guy can do some really special things. Fans realize that he’s at the stage in his career where he can’t pull the rabbit out of his hat every week, but he still needs to produce moments of magic more often. Hopefully tonight was just the start.
Maren Haile-Selassie has proven to be a really smart piece of business. He almost always does his part, and he brings a unique threat in the final third for Chicago.
When do we start talking about giving Frank Klopas the permanent job? Just me? Fair enough.
Man of the match – Georgios Koutsias
Sometimes you watch a man play soccer and the only thing you can think to yourself is, “Damn.” That’s what it was like watching Georgios Koutsias at the start of tonight’s game.
He was cooking. As mentioned earlier, the forward zipped around like he was on something. He was either making runs off the ball, pressing the opposing backline, or taking on his man with the ball. The last part was where he was best, as his dribbling ability helped create the opening two goals.
Koutsias calmed down eventually, but the job was already done. He’s recently been battling for the starting spot, and considering how this match went, the Greek youngster will almost certainly get the nod again this weekend.