Published on April 16th, 2017 | by Ryan Voyles

The Fire Strike Back: Chicago routs short-handed New England 3-0

I spent Saturday night being one of the last people in America to see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (No spoilers, I promise!) and the prevailing message of the film was ‘hope’. In case you ever forgot, the movie probably uses that word at least two dozen times just to really nail that point home.

As I digest what I saw on Saturday afternoon, as the Chicago Fire thrashed New England Revolution 3-0 at Toyota Park, that word ‘hope’ keeps coming back to me.

For the first time in years, this strange feeling of optimism has started to swell inside me as I watch the Fire take the field. That feeling has only been strengthened in the past three games as German sensation Bastian Schweinsteiger has helped in the transformation of this team into one that is not only entertaining to watch; but one that fans can realistically expect to win matches.

The more cynical could point to the past three matches as ones the Fire played inferior teams who struggle on the road. There’s a nugget of truth in that observation, but I’d also tell those folks to hush and enjoy the ride.

Saturday’s match was as though the Fire entered a bizarro world retelling of its 4-0 loss at Atlanta earlier this season. But instead of the Fire being stuck in a hostile setting down a man for over two-thirds of the game, Saturday saw Toyota Park turn into a house of horror for New England. After some back-and-forth action in the early going, the Fire had their first chance of the day in the 19th minute when Luis Solignac headed a Michael Harrington cross on target toward goal. Unfortunately for the Fire, Nemanja Nikolić decided to make certain the ball would go in net by heading the ball, but was called offside before the celebration could ever take off.

The game took a turn a few minutes later, when Revs defender Je-Vaughn Watson would commit two penalties in a span of six minutes that led to two yellow cards and the Fire having a man-advantage for the final 64+ minutes of the match. After some innocuous possession in the Revs side of the field, the Fire made sure to take advantage of the man advantage in the dying minutes of the first half, when Schweinsteiger made a penetrating run into the box, then fought off several defenders after receiving a nice Solignac pass and made a perfect shot from a tough angle to put the Fire up 1-0.

The poor Revolution might as well have not come out of the locker room for the second half, as the Fire turned the final 45 minutes into a clinic on precision passing and possession en route to the rout.  The Fire kept it going right out of the locker room, as a low pass from Solignac across the face of goal went off De Leeuw and right to Niko, who redeemed himself by getting the rebound and scoring his third goal of the season to put the Fire up two-nil.

The final dagger occurred in the 73rd minute when a recently subbed David Accam showed the old Accam we all love and have missed for long stretches this season. Accam’s speed was just too much for the Revs, and he was able to find Niko running the jailbreak with him, with the Hungarian putting a perfectly placed pass in net for his second goal of the match and to put the Fire up three goal to nil.

That result would stand, as the Fire thoroughly dominated for the final 60 minutes of the game with nearly three-quarters of possession and all of the dangerous scoring chances.

With seven points out of nine in their three game home stand, the third-seed in the Eastern Conference will now head off on what will certainly be a bruising three-week road trip with matches against Toronto and the NY Red Bulls before heading for their first west coast trip of the season to face the Los Angeles Galaxy. After this stretch of matches, which also includes home matches against Seattle and Colorado, Fire fans will know whether this truly is A New Hope.

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