Fire defeat Sounders in front of sellout home crowd
As a forward for the New England Revolution, Taylor Twellman was a hated rival for Chicago Fire fans. But Twellman has had a place in his heart for Chicago soccer.
Twellman was at Toyota Park on Saturday night to broadcast the Fire's 4-1 rout of Seattle Sounders FC for ESPN2. It was the first nationally televised game in two years for the Fire, and it happened before a big crowd that reveled in the result.
"This is what we want to see," Twellman said of the first sellout for the Fire (4-3-3, 15 points) in two years, announced at 20,153 fans, and exciting soccer from the home team.
The Fire finished last in MLS the past two seasons and hadn't been on national TV since 2015.
"I just believe that Major League Soccer is exponentially better if Chicago is a major factor," said Twellman, who lived in the area briefly as a child when his father played for the Chicago Sting. "And this market is a huge part of what soccer is (in this country). And this market is amazing. All the foreigners here. And I think it's a huge priority."
Twellman said the Fire seems to have turned a corner with its solid start through 10 games.
"This year it sped up a little bit," Twellman said of the Fire's rebuild. "I think with the All-Star Game coming to downtown Chicago (Aug. 2 at Soldier Field). I think with the ability to get a (Bastian) Schweinsteiger about 8-to-10 months earlier than expected. And then Juninho falling in their laps, right? I'm not sure if (general manager Nelson Rodriguez) was completely honest or if (owner Andrew Hauptman) was honest, if they would say, wow, they would have, after last year, this quick of a turnaround.
"I still think it's a work in progress, though, because you've got three players that play the exact same position. And you've also spent the most money in one off-season recently."
The Fire scored first, with Nikolic converting a penalty kick in the 25th minute after being fouled in the Seattle penalty area.
Seattle answered quickly. Clint Dempsey scored in the 28th minute to even the score at 1-1.
The Fire retook the lead in the 60th minute on a play that started with Cary native Drew Conner, went through Michael de Leeuw twice, Schweinsteiger and finished with a David Accam goal. Luis Solignac added a goal in the 73rd minute, and Nikolic scored his eighth goal of the season in the 77th.