The Chicago Fire will conclude their 20th season of play with a trip south to Texas to face the Houston Dynamo. The 2017 season has been the franchise’s most positive season in recent memory and has seen the Men In Red clinch their first postseason spot since 2012. In stark contrast to their previous consecutive last place finishes, the Fire conclude their regular season with meaningful games and stars within their ranks. Chicago’s Golden Boot and league MVP elect, Nemanja Nikolic, sent a message saying he is “proud of his first MLS season so far” and states “[the team] are fighters [that] will push to the end and hope for the best”. The Fire will earn a first round bye and host a playoff game at Toyota Park if they win in Houston and NYCFC drop points against Columbus Crewe SC Sunday afternoon.
Nemanja Nikolic and the Chicago Fire’s “Fighters” Will Push to the End
The Men In Red head to Houston for the MLS regular season finale hoping to climb to second position in the Eastern Conference. The Fire will have to dig deep to capture three points away against the Dynamo. Houston has earned their playoff birth due to stellar form at home where they have only lost once. The 2006 and 2007 MLS Cup champions currently sit in the fifth spot in the west but could potentially jump up a number of spots with a win and lots of help from other teams. The Fire should be wary of using their standard approach of ball possession as it may play into Houston’s strengths. The Dynamo have typically found success this season without the ball and scoring on quick counter attacks from turnovers.
He's on fire!
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) October 17, 2017
Nikolic on Verge of Golden Boot and Possibly MVP
The Fire’s front office pulled off a number of coups in building their 2017 squad. Signing Bastian Schweinsteiger from Manchester United and swindling Dax McCarty from the New York Red Bulls made for big headlines. The signing of Nikolic from Legia Warsaw last December however received a slightly more muted reaction. The transfer may have been the team’s most important. In Nikolic, the front office has acquired Chicago’s next great number 23. The Hungarian international has smashed the club’s scoring record and has a three goal lead in the MLS Golden Boot race. The first year MLS player could well rake in the league’s Newcomer Of The Year and MVP awards too. The 29-year-old striker says he’s pleased with reaching the club’s goal of achieving a playoff appearance but will push to the end to move up. Nikolic has already won the top scorer awards and league championships in both Poland and Hungary.
“Every attacker wants to be the best scorer, this is our job” said the Fire striker on Friday morning. “I am especially a striker [that] if I get the support, I will have chances. I am proud of what I reached so far in the season and I will do my best in Houston too. It would be a huge thing for me to win the golden boot in my first MLS year.”
Barring a wild turn of events on MLS decision day 2017, the Fire’s number 23 will do just that.