What. A. Night.
The Chicago Fire produced one of the most memorable nights in their storied history as they stunned Inter Miami 4-1 in front of a sold-out crowd at Soldier Field. Second half goals from Xherdan Shaqiri and Maren Haile-Selassie led the Men in Red to victory as they took a giant step closer to reaching the MLS postseason for the first time since 2017.
As the crowd shuffled in, it was mostly a sea of pink, with some baby blue and white stripes mixed in. Messi-themed vendors lined the streets around downtown Chicago, and Latin music could be heard throughout.
When kickoff approached, though, things suddenly shifted. Lionel Messi was omitted from Miami’s squad with injury, but instead of boos, the crowd began to embrace their hometown team. The Fire lineup was met with cheers, particularly for homegrown Brian Gutiérrez and DP Xherdan Shaqiri, the teams two most dynamic attackers.
Head Coach Frank Klopas made a few changes from the lineup most expected he would field. Fabian Herbers earned the start on the right wing, with Wyatt Omsberg keeping his place at center back next to returning Rafa Czichos. Gastón Giménez and Ousmane Doumbia locked down the double pivot, with Shaqiri and Gutiérrez partnering one another in the attack underneath 19-year-old Georgios Koutsias.
The Fire showed fight from the opening whistle. Gutiérrez came flying out of the gates, making an exciting play against Dixon Arroyo, and set the tone with an early nutmeg on the Ecuadorian midfielder. The chances began to come quickly, with Giménez just missing the frame and Miami requiring a Benjamín Cremaschi goal-line clearance to prevent Herbers from giving the Fire the lead. The hosts came inches away once more when Koutsias saw his shot rattle off the post.
There was action at the other end, too; goalkeeper Chris Brady made a big save against DeAndre Yedlin before Omsberg cleaned up the rebound, ensuring that the Fire entered the break on level terms despite a close call.
Whatever Klopas said to the team at halftime worked. The team once again charged out for the second half, and after just four minutes, Shaqiri found the breakthrough. The crowd went wild; the struggling DP finally had his shining Fire moment.
Unfortunately, the lead lasted just three minutes. A Jonathan Dean handball, which in truth, was fortunate to only be a yellow and not a red for denial of a goalscorer opportunity, granted Josef Martínez the chance to level the game. The Venezuelan international duly delivered, and the game was tied at one apiece.
Gutiérrez, who had been a spark for most of the game, was then forced to come off with a slight injury in his knee. Maren Haile-Selassie replaced him. It would prove to be a game-changing moment.
In the 62nd minute, the Fire once again found their breakthrough. Haile-Selassie, just a few minutes after coming on, found himself through on goal up against USMNT reserve goalie Drake Callender. The Swiss winger slotted the ball home, and once again the Fire wheeled away in celebration.
As if one goal wasn’t enough for Haile-Selassie, he got another. Fellow Lugano loanee Doumbia played him through, and he tucked the ball away from a similar position. The Fire were suddenly up 3-1.
Just seven minutes latter came the dagger. Xherdan Shaqiri, the $8 million man, had another magical moment as he rolled the ball into the back of the net from the edge of the eighteen. The once-seemingly pro-Miami, pro-Messi crowd was firmly in love with “Shaq” and the Chicago Fire.
When the final whistle blew, the celebrations continued. The Fire had done the unthinkable and stunned the hottest team in MLS by four goals to one, and will wake up on Thursday morning sitting in 8th place, firmly in a playoff spot. With two games to go, on Saturday against Charlotte and on October 21st away to NYCFC, there’s still work to do, but the Men in Red are certainly trending in the right direction.