Robert Berić called it revenge. The Seattle defense might call it a haunting.
In the 52nd minute of Tuesday’s 2-1 Fire win, Berić ran over defender Xavier Arreaga to collect a lofted ball from Mauricio Pineda at midfield, sent defender Yeimar Gómez spinning with an otherworldly touch into the 18-yard box, and completed a nearly 60-yard run with an expert finish past goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
For the second time in as many matches against the Sounders, the reigning champions were visited by the ghost of MLS future in the form of the Fire’s Slovenian Designated Player.
Berić’s goal broke up a scoreless affair - much like it did when these two sides met back on March 1 in Seattle - but this time the result was different. Coupled with Pineda’s 84th minute match-winner, the Fire took full points off their Group B counterparts in their first foray into the MLS is Back Tournament.
Berić earned his second Heineken Man of the Match honors of the season for his performance, and now has two goals to his credit just three games into his MLS tenure after arriving in style in January.
“Of course I'm happy that I scored, but I'm more happy that we won this game,” Berić said. “We got our revenge back. We lost last time in the last minutes, so we were quite sad after the game, but today we got our revenge. We won this game. And this is what makes me happy when I see my team winning and yeah, hopefully we are going to continue like that.”
In a change from the Fire’s opening day affair at CenturyLink Field, Berić benefitted from the presence of CJ Sapong alongside him in attack. Sapong missed the first two matches of the Fire’s 2020 campaign while he nursed a chest injury.
On Tuesday, he was vital in supporting the Fire attacking unit. He and Berić combined to win 16-of-24 of their 50/50 duels up top, proving to be a vital outlet as the Fire absorbed the Sounders' advantage in possession early on.
Berić went beast mode. pic.twitter.com/NE5t9VOUWY— Chicago Fire FC (@ChicagoFire) July 14, 2020
“We were a threat going forward, especially (in the) first half with CJ and Robert who are always very dangerous,” head coach Raphael Wicky said following the match. “That was the plan, and yeah, I'm very happy with what I saw.”
Sapong - the Fire’s 2019 Golden Boot winner - also chipped in a pair of chances created on the day, which led the team in the category. Berić spoke highly of the pair’s chemistry coming out of the victory.
“We played in a new system with two on the top, and for sure it's easier when you have somebody beside you helping you in all the duels and all the jumps, chasing the defenders,” he told media after the win. “I think we did pretty much what worked since it's so hot outside, and these morning games are quite hard. I mean, for me, I felt it was good.”
The win put the Fire atop the Group B standings, alone on three points with two matches yet to play.
Heading into Sunday night’s resumption of group play against the San Jose Earthquakes, (7 p.m. CT FS1, TUDN), Berić will look to continue playing like a man possessed.
We go again Sunday night‼️— Chicago Fire FC (@ChicagoFire) July 14, 2020
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