Jun 30, 2018; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Fire forward Nemanja Nikolic (23) kicks the ball past New York City defender Alexander Callens (6) during the second half at Bridgeview Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — As he’s done for the past eight matches, Aleksandar Katai got on the scoresheet. Then he scored another goal.
The Chicago Fire winger scored two goals in a five-minute span to turn a Chicago Fire deficit into a 3-2 lead against visiting New York City FC. That lead held for a big win for the Fire, who moved into sixth place in the Eastern Conference, above the playoff line.
Katai’s two goals gave him six goals and three assists in his past eight matches. He has produced a goal or an assist in each of those eight matches. He admitted he is playing with more confidence lately, but deflected his individual praise.
“I think the most important for us is that we get three points,” Katai said. “I think every game we play better and better and I hope we will keep playing good.”
By the way, his original loan deal to the Fire from Spanish club Deportivo Alaves expires at the end of June. For now, there are no official answers about Katai’s future.
“I don’t know yet,” Katai said when asked about his future.
Fire coach Veljko Paunović also didn’t give away anything when asked, saying only that the team is still working on a decision. Paunović has been critical of Katai in the past, but was more complimentary of the player after he scored tying and game-winning goals.
“Definitely, his individual quality helped in this game,” Paunović said of Katai. “This is something we always demanded from him and I think he is showing up more consistently in the last month, definitely. I think he had huge performances in the last three or four games. It was fantastic. I think he finally fit in and understood what we need and what we demand. There are still adjustments that he has to do, but we are very happy with his performance.”
Nemanja Nikolic gave the Fire the lead in the opening minutes. Dax McCarty sent him on a breakaway with a killer through-ball against NYCFC’s high defensive line.
The visitors took the lead with goals from Ismael Tajouri-Shradi and Jo Inge Berget just before halftime.
After Katai’s goals, NYCFC piled on the pressure. Berget hit the crossbar on a header, but the Fire held on despite NYCFC having 75 percent possession in the second half.
It marked the first defeat for coach Domènec Torrent, who was in his second game on the sideline for NYCFC.
“I think we don’t deserve to lose the game, but football is something like that,” Torrent said. “You lose the control (for) five minutes. The (key) for me is we lose the control in the first five minutes of the first half, even the second half (too).”
For the second straight home game, the Fire had no organized fan support as a result of a fan protest stemming from the Sector Latino/section 101 ban. In the first few minutes of the match, the traveling NYCFC fans were the only ones chanting.