As midfielder Luka Stojanovic stood over the ball before his free kick in the 69th minute Saturday, the Fire were bearing down on some dubious marks. Despite dominating Inter Miami, they were on a scoreless streak that had hit 383 minutes. The Fire were 21-plus minutes away from extending their 2021 winless skid to six and to 12 dating to 2020, and also plummeting to the bottom of the 27-team league.
Then Stojanovic, a 59th-minute substitute, sent his shot toward Inter Miami goalkeeper John McCarthy, who had kept his team in the game.
McCarthy, however, couldn’t handle a short hop and let the ball trickle in.
Ugly goal or not, the Fire needed some luck. They got it on the free kick and made it count for a 1-0 victory that snapped a four-game losing streak in front of 10,844 at Soldier Field.
“Fantastic,” captain Francisco Calvo said. “The players, the staff, the fans, the whole club deserved to win. We knew it was going to be difficult. We knew the pressure that we had, and we gave it our all.”
The victory, the franchise’s first since beating D.C. United 2-1 on Oct. 11, doesn’t solve the Fire’s issues. Their finishing wasn’t precise, and Inter Miami struggled all game even before going down to 10 men after Robbie Robinson’s 80th-minute injury.
The record still isn’t pretty (1-4-1, four points), and coach Raphael Wicky was careful to keep the win in perspective. At the same time, he praised his players’ energy and confidence despite coming in with the worst five-game start in franchise history.
“We have one win; I don’t want to go too high,” Wicky said. “The way the team responded after four losses was really, really good. I’m really happy about that.”
Happy isn’t a word the Fire have employed much recently, but at least they have something to build on heading into next week’s game against Club de Foot Montreal.
They also have a victory that doesn’t feel like a fluke. The Fire outshot Inter Miami 20-4, enjoyed a 7-1 advantage in shots on goal and had a 12-3 edge in corner kicks.
“It was really important for the team,” midfielder/defender Mauricio Pineda said. “We’ve been working really hard for this moment, and it feels like the hard work finally paid off in a game. But that’s all it is; it’s just one win. So we’ll keep working and look to get a lot more this season.”
Their fans would like that, too.
It was the Fire’s first victory in front of home supporters since Sept. 14, 2019, at SeatGeek Stadium. The players, who heard more than a few boos after the 2-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union on May 8, saluted the fans as they left the field and seemed to genuinely enjoy the moment after a difficult start to the season.
“We’re going to keep working hard so we can give them many, many more victories,” Wicky said.
NOTE: Midfielder Gaston Gimenez (right hip) was not available. A designated player, Gimenez was subbed off to start the second half of the Fire’s 1-0 loss Thursday at D.C. United.