SAN JOSE, CA. (Sept. 27, 2017) – Milestones became a running theme on Wednesday night, as the Chicago Fire (15-10-6, 51 points) scored early and often in besting the San Jose Earthquakes (11-14-6, 39 points) by a score of 4-1 at Avaya Stadium. With the win, the Fire have formally clinched a spot in the 2017 Audi MLS Playoffs.
Homegrown product Djordje Mihailovic — in his fourth start of 2017 — opened scoring early on with his first goal as a professional. Matt Polster and Michael de Leeuw played a give-and-go just outside the San Jose 18-yard box that resulted in Polster playing a ball to a waiting Mihailovic near the penalty spot. The 18-year-old turned, and coolly placed a right-footed shot past goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell to give the Fire the lead in the 14th minute.
Luis Solignac continued to add to his single-season career high goal haul shortly thereafter and extended the Fire lead just before halftime. The 26-year capped a brilliant sequence — begun by Mihailovic, switched to de Leeuw, and headed past Tarbell — to bag his seventh goal of 2016 and give the Fire a 2-0 lead in the 40th minute.
History was made just three minutes into the second half. Forward Nemanja Nikolic — on 18 goals in 2017, level with Ante Razov for the club’s all-time best single-season mark — made the record all his own in the 48th minute. After intercepting an errant Tarbell pass in the Earthquakes attacking third, Solignac found a waiting Nikolic who turned and blasted his 19th goal of 2017 into the back of the net and bring the Fire advantage up to 3-0.
Despite the feat, Nikolic wouldn’t take much longer to make it 20. Defender Jonathan Campbell began the move by picking his head up and playing a long ball over the top to de Leeuw, who attempted to beat an on-running Tarbell with a high chip that ricocheted off the crossbar. As the rebound fell, Nikolic capitalized and headed in the Fire’s fourth goal in the 65th minute.
Chris Wondolowski pulled one back late for the Quakes, heading a Valeri Qazaishvili cross past goalkeeper Richard Sanchez to make it 4-1 in the 87th.
Sanchez made his MLS debut between the pipes for the Fire, and made eight saves in helping limit the Quakes attack to the lone finish as regular time expired.
Dax McCarty started and made his 300th career MLS regular season appearance on the night, just the 37th player in league history to reach the milestone and the third to do so in a Fire shirt alongside midfielder Jeff Larentowicz and goalkeeper John Busch.
The Fire return home Saturday night, Sept. 30, to welcome New York City FC to Toyota Park for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff. Coverage of the Eastern Conference contest can be found on CSN Chicago Plus and Univision Deportes 1200AM.
MLS Regular Season
Chicago Fire (15-10-6, 51 points) 4:1 San Jose Earthquakes (11-14-6, 39 points)
Sept. 27, 2017 – Avaya Stadium
CHI – Djordje Mihailovic (Matt Polster, Michael de Leeuw) 14’
CHI – Luis Solignac (Michael de Leeuw, Djordje Mihailovic) 40’
CHI – Nemanja Nikolic (Luis Solignac) 48’
CHI – Nemanja Nikolic 65’
SJ – Chris Wondolowski (Valeri Qazaishvili) 87'
CHI – Arturo Alvarez (caution) 26’
SJ – Florian Jungwirth (caution) 35’
SJ – Anibal Godoy (caution) 39’
SJ – Jackson Yueill (caution) 67'
Chicago Fire: Richard Sanchez; Matt Polster (Joao Meira 66’), Johan Kappelhof, Jonathan Campbell, Brandon Vincent; Dax McCarty (Brandt Bronico 83’), Djordje Mihailovic; Arturo Alvarez, Michael de Leeuw, Luis Solignac; Nemanja Nikolic (Drew Conner 76’).
Subs not used: Matt Lampson, Jorge Corrales, Michael Harrington, David Arshakyan.
Shots: 14; Shots On-Goal: 10; Saves: 8; Fouls: 16; Corners: 3; Offsides: 2
San Jose Earthquakes: Andrew Tarbell, Nick Lima (Valeri Qazaishvili 64’), Francois Affolter, Tommy Thompson (Jahmir Hyka 77’), Shea Salinas, Danny Hoesen, Jackson Yueill, Florian Jungwirth, Anibal Godoy, Marco Ureña (Quincy Amarikwa 72’), Chris Wondolowski.
Subs not used: David Bingham, Victor Bernardez, Kofi Sarkodie, Darwin Cerén.
Shots: 20; Shots On-Goal: 9; Saves: 6; Fouls: 10; Corners: 5; Offsides: 1