May 9, 2018; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Fire forward Aleksandar Katai (10) shoots the ball against Montreal Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush (1) during the first half at Bridgeview Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
The Chicago Fire got a late winner on a deflected shot from Kevin Ellis to beat the Montreal Impact 1-0.
Here are three things we learned from the match:
This was an important win for the Fire
The Fire are below the playoff line a quarter of the way through the season and have three out of the next four matches on the road. With this win, the Fire are in a decent spot. They may not reach last year’s 55-point regular season, but a playoff spot is still within reach.
The Eastern Conference is looking like by far the better of the two conferences this year, so earning a playoff spot won’t be easy. The Fire can’t afford to drop points in winnable home games, especially after already losing three at home so far this season.
A playoff team should beat a Montreal team that has conceded the most goals in the league so far at home. It wasn’t always pretty, but the Fire did it.
Faith in young players rewarded
Nemanja Nikolic and Alan Gordon started the match, giving the Fire two forwards up top. Neither finished the match, which meant the Fire didn’t have any traditional forwards in the last 18 minutes of a scoreless game at home.
In stepped rookies Elliot Collier and Diego Campos. Both have played in a majority of the Fire’s matches this season in attacking roles. They didn’t play a part in Kevin Ellis’ game-winning goal, but they were put in important positions for a team in search of a winner at home.
Meanwhile, Mo Adams wasn’t benched after making mistakes on both Atlanta goals Saturday against the Fire. The rookie midfielder marked Ignacio Piatti, giving a performance coach Veljko Paunović called “a work of art.” Piatti still had a golden chance to score in the first half, but lost it with a heavy touch when he was unmarked in the box. Other than that, he was mostly quiet thanks in part to Adams.
Improvement from Montreal’s defense
Entering Wednesday, the Impact had allowed two goals or more in seven of the team’s nine matches. The now-24 goals conceded is five more than the nearest team.
The Impact kept the Fire at bay for much of the match, but couldn’t withstand late pressure. Montreal can take solace in a mostly solid defensive performance, which is still an improvement. A 3-7 record means there’s still a lot of work and catching up to do.