Chicago Fire 2-3 Charlotte FC: Getting what you deserve, again
Photo via @CharlotteFC on Twitter

Charlotte FC were able to keep their slim playoff hopes alive in the most dramatic of fashions on Saturday night as they beat the Chicago Fire 3-2 at Soldier Field. 

Far from the prettiest contest, it was still a very eventful one. Chicago jumped out to a two-goal lead in the first half thanks to goals from Mauricio Pineda and Jhon Durán, and it looked like they were going to stroll to a victory.

Charlotte came back, though, as Karol Świderski halved the deficit before Nuno Santos tied things up with about 15 minutes to go. Just as it seemed like the points were going to be shared, Świderski managed to find the back of the net in the final few moments to win the contest for the away side.

Peak Major League Soccer.

Story of the match

Chicago had a dream start to the contest, opening the scoring after just three minutes. A blocked shot fell right to Mauricio Pineda on the edge of the area, and he capitalized on the fortunate bounce, settling the ball before rifling it into the back of the net.

Things almost quickly turned into a nightmare as Charlotte should have equalized moments later. Brandt Bronico’s shot was saved by Gabriel Slonina, but he parried the ball right into the path of Karol Świderski. He made a mess of the finish, though, accidentally hitting a very tame effort right to the goalkeeper.

The action did not stop, and this time it was the Fire who wasted a chance. Jhon Durán broke free in behind the opposition defense and was 1v1 with the keeper, but he tried a cheeky dinked finish that was underhit, which led to a simple save.

He wouldn’t make the same mistake again at the half hour mark. Hitting on the counter, the ball eventually fell to Durán in the box, and he finished the move off clinically by turning and burying a shot into the bottom corner.

Charlotte nearly pulled one back a bit before the break from a set-piece. A corner whipped in towards the far post was won by Derrick Jones, but his close-range header was denied by the woodwork before the Fire cleared the danger away.

They were able to halve the deficit right after the break, or at least it seemed like they did. Chicago couldn’t clear the ball away, and it led to Świderski getting it on the edge of the area. From there it was simple, as he passed it into the back of the net, although Slonina should have done better with the effort. However, the goal was called off following a VAR review due to a foul in the buildup. 

The contest died off for a bit, but it burst right back into life in the 68th minute. Kerwin Vargas forced a brilliant save out of Slonina, and then the resulting corner was eventually slammed home by Świderski to pull one back for Charlotte.

They then went on to find an equalizer with 15 minutes to go. A simple long ball played McKinze Gaines into space on the right wing, and his cut-back picked out the run of Nuno Santos. His finish was superb, as he slammed the ball into the near post to tie things up.

Things became unhinged near the end of proceedings, and Charlotte were ultimately able to snatch a winning goal at the death. It was a mad-scramble in the penalty area, but Świderski stayed calm, turning before hitting a low shot towards goal. It wasn’t the best attempt, but the ball still squeezed by Slonina before hitting the back of the net.

Chicago sent bodies forward in response, but their efforts were for naught. The away side held on, and they were the ones who ended the night as  winners.

Takeaways

Fair play to whoever worked on the pitch at Soldier Field because it didn’t look too bad tonight. Fans had the right to worry after seeing what happened during the Chicago Bears’ rain-soaked contest last weekend, but the playing surface was fixed in time for tonight's Fire game.

Charlotte goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina was seemingly glued to his line on the night. He refused to come out to deal with long balls in behind his backline, and it ultimately hurt his side. Not everyone can be a sweeper keeper, but all goalkeepers at this stage should be able to take care of certain situations.

Kendall Burks did not have a good debut. He was fine in the first half when he didn’t have much to do, but once Charlotte started to click going forward, he was a dead man walking. It’s hard to blame him for the poor showing considering his lack of experience at this level, but he was still a disappointment on the night.

It was nice to see Stanislav Ivanov back on the field. In another life everything would have worked out for him in Chicago, but in reality he’ll probably be let go in the offseason.

The Fire deserved this.

Man of the match - Karol Świderski

Karol Świderski could not have made a worse start to the contest, as he missed a sitter in the opening few minutes for Charlotte. Instead of letting that mistake haunt him, he kept pushing forward, and that resilience proved to be crucial.

It started in the 69th minute. The striker somehow got on the ball following a corner, and he made the most of the opportunity by slamming a shot into the roof of the net from close range. Just like that his side was only down one.

Then, in the final few moments of the contest, Świderski found himself in a similar position. He had the ball in the box, and he was surrounded by panicking bodies. He stayed composed, though. His turn was brilliant, and although the finish wasn’t as good, it was enough to get the ball across the goal-line.

Ballgame. Three points to Charlotte.

Those two goals from the Polish international were enough to steal all three points for the Crowns, and they’re now still in the playoff picture going into the final few weeks of the campaign. 

Their chances are slim, but as long as they have Świderski, they still have hope.

VAVEL Logo