BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — Nemanja Nikolic and Arturo Alvarez each scored in the opening 15 minutes and the Chicago Fire beat Real Salt Lake 2-0 on Saturday for the Fire’s first victory.
“It was very important, to start the season, especially the home opener, to win the game, it was very important to our confidence very important for everything and it’s a huge reward for a great preseason and tough preseason we had,” Chicago head coach Veljko Paunovic said.
Chicago (1-0-1) and RSL (0-1-1) each opened the season with draws last weekend.
“I though the offensive push was there, the intent was there, the final execution wasn’t there,” RSL head coach Jeff Cassar said. “We had a few really good looks, Chicago did a really good job clogging the middle there an making the box tight and so you need a little bit of excellence and we didn’t have it again.”
Nikolic started the scoring in the 11th minute. He was in an offside position but RSL’s back pass found Nikolic’s feet and he beat goalkeerper Nick Rimando on a one-on-one breakaway. Alvarez scored four minutes later. He dribbled in space on the right side, cut inside with three touches along the 18-yard box and rolled in a deflected shot off defender David Horst.
“Yeah, minus the first 20 minutes of, actually the five-minute stretch where they scored two goals, other than that the game kind of went the way we thought it was going to go,” Cassar said. “They have some dangerous players on the counter, you’re going to get sometimes, but I thought our mentality was aggressive it was proactive we just couldn’t get the ball in the back of the net.”
Rimando kept RSL in it. He barely got a hand on Nikolic’s open shot in the 50th minute and in the 81st, Rimando dove to his left to punch away Juninho’s free kick from just outside the area.
The RSL goalkeeper was asked about the elements he had to deal with on Saturday. It was 28 degrees at the start.
“Yeah, it was cold,” Rimando said. “For the first half I was in the shade the whole time, the field was really bouncy, the most bouncy I’ve seen it ever playing here. The weather was cold, I don’t know how it was on the field in the first half but second half I thought it was warmer. But yeah I can only talk for myself and how I felt I don’t know how the guys felt.”
Real Salt Lake returns home for its next game. The LA Galaxy visits Rio Tinto Stadium next Saturday. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.