CHICAGO – As the summer heat begins here in the Windy City, a few athletes tend to turn it up just as the temperatures do.
Usually, the star comes from one of Chicago’s baseball teams, like Jake Arrieta in 2015 or Kyle Hendricks in 2016. Players that were good suddenly ascend to a different level. Jose Abreu and Carlos Rodon did as well in 2016, coming to the forefront in the warmest months of the year.
In 2017, the person that might do that is on a pitch instead of a diamond. In a team that’s quickly emerging as a contender, this midfielder is proving to be the city’s next soccer star.
That’s Nemanja Nikolic, a midfielder whose transfer wasn’t as hyped as Bastian Schweinsteiger’s earlier in 2017, but his arrival in December of 2016 from Legia Warsaw has helped turn a rebuilding team into an MLS contender.
In 15 league games this season, Nikolic has an MLS-high 12 goals on 28 shots on goal. In six of the last eight Fire matches he’s tallied at least a goal and during that stretch has helped the Fire to a 5-1-2 record.
With that, Veljko Paunovic’s team has gone from the middle of the pack to the second best team in the entire MLS. Their 28 points are just one behind Toronto FC for the Eastern Conference and overall lead, a major accomplishment for a team that’s not made the playoffs since 2012.
Nikolic figures to be a strong candidate to be one of the representatives for the Fire for the MLS All-Star Game at Soldier Field on August 2nd against Real Madrid.
In the meantime, the Fire open up Lamar Hunt US Open play in the fourth round against the USL’s St. Louis FC on the road. They’ll be trying to win that trophy for the first time since 2006, and like this season will be looking to Chicago’s newest summer star to help bring them back to the promise land again.