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Chicago Fire blow past FC Dallas in first game under new ownership

CJ Sapong struck for a brace as the Fire erupted for four goals in the opening 40 minutes

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — Joe Mansueto has only been the Chicago Fire owner officially for one day, but the team already gave him a dominant performance.

The Fire blew away FC Dallas 4-0 on Saturday at SeatGeek Stadium. The win came a day after the club announced Mansueto, who became a minority owner last year, bought the remaining share of the team from Andrew Hauptman.

Whether or not the Fire (9-12-10, 37 points) played with extra motivation or a sense of a fresh start, the team came out hot and didn’t let up until they scored four goals inside the first 40 minutes. 

Mansueto was at the game and addressed the team after the win.

“We dedicated the win to him,” defender Jonathan Bornstein said. “It was really nice. We gave him the game ball. He was excited. He talked a little about his ideas. More than anything, he was proud of the team and the feeling goes both ways on that end.”

Bornstein and Fire coach Veljko Paunović said it was easy to avoid distraction with all the things going on behind the scenes with the club. Not only did the ownership change, but the team is also taking steps toward moving to Soldier Field for 2020.

“He’s talking about making good changes to the club and obviously going into the city is a big thing for us and we’re all excited for that,” Bornstein said. “For me, he was always in the locker room before the games. He was the one that I was associating very positive things with the club. I’m really happy that he takes the team and we’ll be moving forward with him.”

Paunović echoed the positive outlook when it comes to Mansueto.

“He was always in our home games,” Paunović said of Mansueto. “Obviously since he became the part owner of the club in the past, we had interactions. We believe that right now being the full owner of the club is the great opportunity to move forward in a positive future for the club, which we always said was there. I believe also that there is a very good spirit and we just want to keep working together. Very positive. I think he is a very experienced man, a man of success and that’s going to help the club for sure, like it was so far in everything that he did being the co-owner with Andrew.”

Sep 14, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; Fans pose for a photo with Chicago Fire mascot Sparky before a game against FC Dallas at SeatGeek Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports

“We know that we have an owner, nothing against Andrew Hauptman — he also invested into the team — but seeing how aggressive Joe is in his stance of making soccer fun in the city again and you’re bringing it downtown,” CJ Sapong said. “All (the) guys know the energy that downtown brings and to be able to play there, it’s even more motivation and inspiration (to) win for this team.”

A comedy of errors from Dallas (12-11-7, 43 points) allowed Sapong to work his way to the opening goal. A bad back pass from Reggie Cannon followed by miscommunication between Matt Hedges and goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez left an opening. A pressing Sapong won the ball, dribbled around Gonzalez and easily finished into an open net.

There was no slowing down after that 7th minute goal. Przemysław Frankowski, Sapong and Nemanja Nikolić added goals later in the first half.

Dallas is in seventh place in the Western Conference. The LA Galaxy are a point behind and play Sunday against Sporting Kansas City.

“It’s tight,” Dallas coach Luchi Gonzalez said. “You can’t depend on other results that go our way or not. It is what it is. We have to be steady and take care of our business, control our business.”

The Fire, still clinging onto slim playoff hopes, looked like a quality team. For one day, the Fire looked like a playoff-caliber team.

Can they keep it going? Is it too late?

The Fire are now within two points of New England for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Revolution visit Orlando later on Saturday and have a game in hand. Even if the Fire win out to finish with 46 points, New England needs eight points out of five matches to eliminate the Fire. That’s a solid, but reasonable number from a team chasing a playoff spot.

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