With 31,308 Fans in Attendance, Chicago Fire FC Defeat Real Salt Lake 1-0 at Soldier Field
CHICAGO - Playing its final home match of the 2021 season, Chicago Fire FC (9-16-7, 34 points) defeated Real Salt Lake (12-12-6, 42 points) 1-0 in front of 31,308 fans at Soldier Field on Saturday night. As the Club celebrated the Fire faithful during its annual Fan Appreciation Night, presented by 7UP, tonight's attendance marked the third-largest in Club history and the most-attended Fire match since the inaugural 1998 campaign.
With the season-high crowd pushing the team forward, Chicago found the game-winning goal in the final minute of the first half when forward Robert Berić continued his recent hot streak, bagging his fifth goal in the team's last five games. The play started with a deep switch from defender Mauricio Pineda to find fellow defender Miguel Navarro, who drove a cross into the 18-yard box to set up the finish for Berić (WATCH).
After a first half during which RSL generated zero shots on target, seventeen-year-old goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina was called upon to make two solid saves early in the second half as the visitors made a push to get back into the game. In the 60th minute, Slonina quickly reacted to a powerful close-range header from a corner kick, pushing it off the post with a finger-tip save (WATCH). Three minutes later, the Chicagoland native rose to the occasion once again, denying a dangerous shot from distance with a strong diving save.
Slonina finished the match with five saves and was named Man of the Match, as he helped lead the team to its seventh shutout of the season. With the win, Chicago has just one loss in its last six games (3-1-2), accumulating 11 points out of a possible 18 since Sept. 26.
NEXT GAME: The Fire will return to league play on Wednesday, Oct. 27 when the team faces New York City FC at Yankee Stadium. Beginning at 6:30 p.m. CT, the match will be broadcast live on WGN-TV, CFFC Live and TUDN 1200 AM.
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Tonight's attendance was the third-largest in Club history, ranking behind two games from the 1998 inaugural campaign - Chicago Fire FC vs. LA Galaxy on Aug. 8, 1998 (37,122) and Chicago Fire FC vs. Tampa Bay Mutiny on April 4, 1998 (36,444).
Berić scored his eighth goal of the season in the first half. His eight goals are tied with midfielder Luka Stojanović for the most on the team.
Berić's goal marked the 10th time he's scored in back-to-back games across the last two seasons for the Fire.
Berić joins defender Jonathan Bornstein as the only two active Fire players to have scored a goal against Real Salt Lake. Bornstein previously tallied his first career MLS goal against the Western Conference side in July 2006 at Rio Tinto Stadium while playing for Chivas USA.
Navarro tallied his second assist of the season, while Pineda picked up his first assist of the season.
Slonina's five saves marked the second-most in a single match for the 17-year-old.
The Fire generated 25 shots in tonight's match, marking the third-most shots in a single game for the Club this season.
Tonight's match marked the first meeting between the two teams since a 1-1 draw in Chicago in June 2019.
Midfielder Gastón Giménez made his first start for the Fire since Oct. 3, playing 84 minutes tonight. The Argentine midfielder played 27 minutes as a substitute in the Fire's away match on Wednesday after returning from World Cup qualifiers with Paraguay.
After a substitute appearance on Wednesday, defender Boris Sekulić made his first start for the Club since Sept. 22. The defender had missed four matches due to a back injury.
Former Fire player and the Club's current U-19 assistant coach Patrick Nyarko served as an interim assistant coach tonight. Nyarko made 196 regular season appearances across eight seasons for the Fire. He also played under current interim assistant coach Frank Klopas from 2011-13.
Chicago Fire FC 1:0 Real Salt Lake
CHI - Berić (8) (M. Navarro 2, Mauricio Pineda 1) (WATCH) 45'
CHI - Herbers (Yellow Card) 29'
CHI - Pineda (Yellow Card) 67'
CHI - Giménez (Yellow Card) 74'
CHI - Gutiérrez (Yellow Card) 85'
Chicago Fire FC: GK G. Slonina, D Sekulić (Espinoza, 84'), D Pineda, D Bornstein ©, D M. Navarro, M F. Navarro, M Giménez (Stojanović, 84'), M Medrán (Omsberg, 90+4), F Herbers (Gutiérrez, 72'), F Berić (Offor, 73'), F Aliseda
Subs not used: GK Shuttleworth, D Kappelhof, M Collier, M Monis
Real Salt Lake: GK Ochoa, D Herrera, D D Holt, D Glad, M Brody, M Luiz, M Ruiz (Wood, 85'), M Chang (Meram, 72'), M Rusnák, F Rubin (Julio, 72'), F Kreilach
Subs not used: GK MacMath, D Toia, D Morgan, M Menendez, M Besler, M Portillo
Stats Summary: CHI / RSL
Shots: 25 / 16
Shots on Goal: 10 / 5
Passing Accuracy: 79.1% / 76.7%
Saves: 5 / 8
Corners: 3 / 5
Fouls: 11 / 12
Offsides: 0 / 1
Possession: 47.8% / 52.2%
Referee: Rosendo Mendoza
Assistant Referees:Gianni Facchini, Gjovalin Bori
Fourth Official: Mark Allatin
VAR: Sorin Stoica
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