BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — One team was on the verge of clinching a playoff spot while the other was eliminated. That didn’t show on the field.
LAFC (14-8-8) entered the day with a chance to a clinch a playoff spot with a win and help from the LA Galaxy-Vancouver match later on Saturday. After the match, coach Bob Bradley was to the point when talking about his team.
“We were no good today so we’re pretty angry with ourselves,” Bradley said. “More often than not we come on the field with a good idea of the football we want to play, we come on the field with the right mentality. Today things were slow. Things were casual.
“It’s a day where we have to be honest with ourselves that we were just not good.”
Djordje Mihailovic opened the scoring in the 20th minute with arguably the best goal of the Fire’s season. Mihailovic hit a laser on the volley from a Brandon Vincent cross.
— Chicago Fire (@ChicagoFire) September 29, 2018
It was Mihailovic’s second career goal and first since coming back from ACL surgery.
“Everyday before the game we practice crossing and finishing so it was just routine for me,” Mihailovic said.
When asked if it was the best goal of his career at any level, Mihailovic thought he was one-upped later in the match when Diego Rossi scored a chip to get LAFC on the board.
“It’s funny because I don’t even think that was the best goal in this game,” Mihailovic said with a laugh. “Rossi probably scored a better goal. In the two goals I’ve scored, I think (Saturday’s) was better.”
The Fire (8-16-7) doubled the lead nine minutes later with a penalty kick from Nemanja Nikolic after Brandt Bronico got knocked over by Steven Beitashour in the box to earn the penalty.
Aleksandar Katai sealed the match with a goal off the bench in the 66th minute, with Mihailovic laying off the assist.
Sep 29, 2018; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Fire midfielder Raheem Edwards (7) takes the field before a game against the Los Angeles FC at Bridgeview Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
The Fire endured plenty of pressure after Rossi’s goal, but held on for the win. LAFC controlled much of the possession with 66 percent for the match.
“I think the defense and the midfield was fantastic today,” Fire goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland said. “Shifting communication, everything was great from the first half all the way through the second half. I think everybody worked very hard and worked very well. It was smart. It was 90 minutes of running.”
Fire coach Veljko Paunović was happy to see his team display “professionalism” by playing hard despite being eliminated on midweek.
“We showed that we are out of the playoffs, but we play until the end with every team in the league,” Paunović said. “I think definitely I want to see the drive to win. The respect for our profession in terms of, not only as a job, this is our life.”