The Chicago Fire kicked off the second half of their season with a win over the New York Red Bulls, 2-1. With the win, the Fire avenged a 2-0 loss to the Red Bulls from earlier in the season.
While the back half of the season kicked off with a bang, so did the match itself. Within eight minutes of kickoff, the Fire were up 2-0 thanks to two Luka Stojanović goals. The goals were Stojanović's team-leading fourth and fifth of the season and were good enough for an MLS Player of the Week Award.
Stojanović's goal tally comes despite not starting regularly, something he addressed in the post-match press conference. "I was out for some games, and this was a coach's decision that I don't want to go on because I work hard every day...I think I proved myself to me also, to all staff, and all my teammates that have played."
Head coach Raphael Wicky echoed the sentiment of his leading goal scorer. "He definitely showed that we can count on him and that he's there," Wicky said. "So, if the player performs like that and then has a good week in training, then I don't see a reason why he should not keep getting minutes."
Stojanović started in place of Álvaro Medrán who missed out due to being placed in the team's Health and Safety Protocol. With Medrán's for next match up in the air, the door could be further opened Stojanović.
Stout Defensive Performances
While Stojanović shined brightly in the final third, the Fire's defense, once again, had a very good match. It is the third straight match one could say that about the Fire back line.
The Fire put on an admirable performance last weekend, keeping the Philadelphia Union level with one less man for a majority of the game.
In mid-week, the Fire kept a clean sheet against NYCFC, the most potent attack in MLS. And finally, another stout defensive performance saw the Fire allow just four shots on target to Red Bulls. The visitors did not even sniff the nets before Tom Barlow put in a rebound off a Red Bulls free-kick in the 96th minute.
One can point to the shift in formation as a potential catalyst for the Fire defense. With a traditional four-defender formation, the Fire lost seven of their first nine matches. In the nine matches since, the Fire have only lost two matches as they have switched to a back three.
"I believe that changing into a back three has given this team a little bit more stability, a little bit more balance between the attacking and the defending." Wicky said. "I am usually not a big believer in systems, [but] I think going into [the back three formation] gave this team and gives this team a little bit more balance right now, yes."