Michael de Leeuw

Where to begin?

How about at the top, which is where Veljko Paunovic and the Chicago Fire find themselves in the MLS table after a second straight 4-0 win at home Saturday against the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps. Nemanja Nikolic struck twice in the rapid succession early on, Arturo Alvarez volleyed home a wonder-goal for a third, and Michael de Leeuw snapped his scoreless drought to create another party atmosphere at Toyota Park. 

Digging a little deeper into the club's latest feats and milestones:

  • The Chicago Fire now stand 11-3-4 on the year with 37 points which, coupled with Toronto FC's road loss to FC Dallas on Saturday, sends them to first place in the Eastern Conference and the Supporters' Shield standings. Behind Chicago, TFC and NYCFC are tied for second in MLS with 10 wins apiece; no other club has more than eight. 
  • Per Elias, the last time Chicago stood in first place with 18 or more games played in a season was July 26, 2005. Chicago would finish that season in third place in the East with a record of 15-13-4. 
  • Chicago's home winning streak now stands at eight games, the best single-season run in club history and tied for the longest home win streak overall, matching that set over the course of the 2000 and 2001 seasons. 
  • The club is 9-0-1 at Toyota Park in 2017 and are unbeaten in their last 13 home contests dating to last season. Including U.S. Open Cup matches, the Fire have lost only once in their last 26 games played at Toyota Park. 
  • Chicago's 27 goals scored at home this season already rank as tied for the sixth-highest single-season total in club history. 
  • Chicago's defensive efforts were once again enough to earn a clean sheet -- the Fire's sixth in their last eight MLS matches -- leaving the Fire with the third-fewest goals allowed in 2017 (17). Including the Open Cup, Chicago has allowed just two goals in its last 10 games played. 
  • Through Saturday's matches, Chicago and Atlanta United are tied for the MLS lead in goals scored (35). The Fire also rank second in the league in shots on goal (93) despite standing just 11th in total shots (218). 
  • Chicago, NYCFC and Toronto FC are tied for the league lead in multi-goal games (11) while the Fire (5) are tied for second in 3-goal games (Atlanta United-6)
  • Prior to Saturday, the Fire had scored only five goals in seven all-time matches against Vancouver Whitecaps FC (2011-16). They nearly matched that with their four-goal haul on Saturday, picking up their second win against the Caps (previous: 1-0 at Toyota Park, July 14, 2012). 
  • Chicago is now 5-0-1 vs. Western Conference opponents this season, with a chance to continue that run Wednesday at Portland Timbers FC> 
  • Hungarian forward Nemanja Nikolic extended his lead in the MLS Golden Boot race and remained on a historic goal-scoring pace. Nikolic's brace increased his sum to 16 on the year, five better than his closest competitors (NYCFC's David Villa and Houston's Cubo Torres) and better through 18 games played than the three players who hold the MLS record of 27 goals in a season. Bradley Wright-Phillips stood at 15 goals after 18 games, Chris Wondolowski at 14 and Roy Lassiter at 13. 
  • Nikolic also moved closer to rewriting the Fire's single-season goal-scoring record book. His 16 goals this year move him past the 15 scored by Mike Magee in his MVP-winning season of 2013 and leave him just two shy of Ante Razov's record 18, set in 2000. 
  • Arturo Alvarez scored his second goal of the year and the 31st of his MLS career with his exceptional volley in the 25th minute. 
  • After scoring seven times in 18 matches last season, Michael de Leeuw opened his account for 2017 with the Fire's fourth goal off an assist by Nikolic. 
  • Matt Polster set up Chicago's first and third goals, recording the first multi-assist game of his career. Polster (4) and fellow outside back Brandon Vincent (4) are now tied for fourth on the team in assists this season. 
  • Midfielder Juninhowore the captain's armband for the Fire in his 200th career MLS regular season appearance. 
  • The Fire's 4-0 win came despite the absence of two of their stars, as Dax McCarty (USA) and David Accam (Ghana) played head-to-head in an international friendly held in East Hartford, Conn. 
  • Chicago also played the second half without the services of Bastian Schweinsteiger, who left the match in the 43rd minute after experiencing pain in his right hip. 
  • Chicago again went without a booking in the game and (through Saturday) are tied with New England for the fewest yellow cards received in MLS (21).  
  • The game was played in front of a sellout crowd of 20,187, marking the first time since 2007 the Fire have sold out two straight regular season home matches. Chicago will next be at home on Saturday, August 5 against the New England Revolution (TICKETS).