Woah, woah, woah! 

Fireworks came a bit early this year as the Chicago Fire had Soldier Field erupting with excitement and celebrations this past Wednesday, July 3rd.  The men in red defeated the Philadelphia Union 4-3 in a midweek matchup filled with drama, controversy and everything in between. Aside from a few blunders and mistakes, this might have been the best all-around performance the Fire have shown all season. You typically see fireworks let off all around the city on July 4th, but the real display of explosions came a bit early as the Fire rallied back down 3-1 to defeat conference rivals, Union.


Maren Haile-Selassie celebrates his goal //Blue News Sports

Things got started in the 30th minute when in-form Maren Haile-Selassie opened things up off a wonderful play down the right hand corner which ended with a lovely cross from defender Allan Arigoni. In typical Fire fashion of course, Union quickly tied things up just 8 minutes later off a very unlucky deflection, finding its way into the back of the Fire net. To make matters worse, Fire goalkeeper Chris Brady had a mishap on the edge of his box, where he found himself having to basically linebacker tackle Union striker Quinn Sullivan from getting onto a loose ball inside the box. Center ref let things play on for about 30 seconds until he got word through his mic that the play should be reviewed. Lone behold, it was indeed called a PK after a VAR review, and Union playmaker Daniel Gazdag buried the penalty kick from 12 yards out to make it 2-1 Union just before half.

Aside from being down 2-1 at half, the Fire looked good as they went back and forth with the Union for the first 45. Things quickly changed though when the Union scored just 4 minutes into the second half thanks to rising youngster Jack McGlynn in the 49th minute of play. At this point, just like every other Fire fan, I thought to myself that this was going to be just another humiliating Fire loss at home against a conference rival.

With about 10 minutes to go in regulation, the clock was nearing 9:10pm central time here in Chicago. As I sat above my River North apartment complex, looking out at the sky above Navy Pier, I waited for the usual Summer fireworks to go off (every Wednesday and Saturday during the Summer.) It was odd to me that the clock struck 9:15pm and I had not seen nor heard any fireworks go off at Navy Pier, which was just a few blocks away from me. Well, there was a reason for that. The real fireworks of the night were just about to be set off a mile or so south of Navy Pier over at Soldier Field where the Fire were about to pull off one of the best comebacks in MLS this season after going down 3-1!

Designated Player Hugo Cuypers got things going once again in the 82nd minute when he headered home a redirected cross off a corner and buried it with about 10 minutes to go in the match. About 5 minutes later, The Fire drew up a practiced set piece from a corner which led a ball to the back post and found Rafael Czichos redirecting it towards the center of the six yard box.

Gaston Gimenez celebrates goal // Chicago Fire on X

Gaston Gimenez, who came in as a substitute in the second half, timed the floated ball perfectly in the air and hit the cleanest half volley you will see this season right into the back of the net to level things up. Gimenez literally waited for the ball to drop back down from the redirection and hit it perfectly, just above the penalty marker. Union keeper Oliver Semmle had absolutely no chance at the rocket as he just watched it hit the back of the net.


As a casual supporter, I am just ecstatic at the fact that we were able to salvage a point at home after being down 3-1 at that point. As the clock ticked past the 90th minute of play, things seemed all but wrapped up for the night. BUT WAIT A SECOND! Hugo Cuypers, finally showing why he’s worth the millions we spent on him, has found absolutely incredible form as Fire Nation has recently reported, and bagged his second of the night in the 92nd minute to seal the victory and give the Fire all 3 points!

Hugo Cuypers celebrates his winning goal // Chicago Fire on X

Brian Gutierrez found a great ball in between the lines out right where he works best, served up a cross to the back post to Haile-Selassie who one-timed it back across the box with his left foot and served up the perfect, looped ball to Cuypers who smashed it home past the Union keeper. That final attack was poetic, it was beautiful, it was art. Our 3 main attackers this year linked up perfectly in the final third and managed to find a way to win us the match late. You don’t see that too often!

 

Could this be the match that finally gets the Fire going? Well, it may already be that the Fire have found a nice rhythm and have already gotten things going as we head into the most important part of the season; Summer play. Since June 1st, the Fire have now won 3 matches and lost 2. That’s incredible form especially for a team that has averaged just above a point a match in the last few seasons. They now find themselves just 3 points back from a playoff spot with lots of footy left to play this season. The men in red travel to sunny San Jose this Sunday as they will take on the Earthquakes. This match will say a lot about the current form of the Fire and show what this team is really made of. A point out of that game would be terrific.

It’s worthy of noting too, that the Fire have made great strides within the past month without Xherdan Shaqiri who is away at the Euros. A conversation that will need to be had soon is whether or not Shaqiri will find himself back in the starting XI as soon as he returns. Personally, I believe in the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” phrase. Switzerland take on tournament favorites England tomorrow morning in the quarterfinals. So, that conversation may come sooner rather than later for Head Coach Frank Klopas and staff.

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