The Chicago Fire certainly made the most of its return to Soldier Field, 15 years after its last appearances at the historic venue.
Raphael Wicky’s side picked up its first clean sheet victory on Tuesday, downing Eastern Conference rivals FC Cincinnati 3-0. Not only was it an emotional night for the franchise, but it was an important win for the club, whom bounced back from a 3-0 beating of its down four days prior in Columbus.
“Well, we can start off by saying that things didn’t go very well in Orlando; it didn’t go how we wanted it to,” Wicky said post match. “When we had the opportunity to come back and train and prepare against Columbus, we also didn’t do a good job. So, now it was a chance to come back and show everyone that we are not doing poorly, that we really are working hard, and that the things that we’re working on we’re learning and adapting.”
“Coming here for the first time, it was more motivating, it was more exciting. There was also a bigger expectation from fans to see what we’re doing and how we are evolving and adapting. Now we need to keep playing well and doing a good job and giving people what they want to see so that we can keep playing here and make this our home.”
There may not have been any fans in the stands, but it didn’t stop the Fire from scoring early and often against 10th place FC Cincy. Midfielders Fabian Herbers and Alvaro Medran scored eight minutes apart after a strong start for the home team, giving the Fire early breathing room for once this season.
Offseason acquisitions Ignacio Aliseda and Boris Sekulic combined for the final goal of the match, capping off an impressive bounce-back performance from the Eastern Conference club. Four offseason acquisitions in total got their name on the scoring sheet with either a goal or assist, a feat which Fire fans will hope to see more this season.
“Like you said, there were three goals from three midfielders,” Medran said. “I think that shows we have a really good midfield who can adapt to any situation and any position. I think that’s what the coach wants. He wants us to be able to step up into different positions and adapt. Fabian (Herbers) is really good, I think you can see one of his qualities of being able to play with his back to goal.”
“The goal showed how well he did running in having his back to goal. Nacho (Ignacio Aliseda), as a number 10, did well to get into a good spot, receive the ball and make that play. My goal, well it was a good goal, I got it where it needed to be, anyone could’ve scored it but it was good and I was there. Coach just wants us to adapt and this shows how well we can play and adapt together. We can keep going from here.”
Tuesday marked the first shutout win for the Fire since September, but overall its first at Soldier Field since 2005. After a disappointing ending to its run at the MLS is Back Tournament, the Fire will look to take its new confidence on the road at NYCFC on Aug. 29th. It will be a tougher test for Wicky and his players, but could pose problems after having success in front of goal against FC Cincy.
“We were struggling in the past games to really be clinical in front of goal,” Herbers said. “We just didn’t get our chances and were losing some games even though we had the chances to win those games, actually, or to at least get a tie out of those games. Today, we showed that when we are clinical in front of the goal, that we can really dominate teams and be a good team and win games. (We) didn’t even give up much defensively either so I’m really proud of the team. Hopefully, we can stay that clinical in front of goal.”