Already eliminated from the postseason, the Chicago Fire will use Saturday's match against Real Salt Lake, its home finale for this season, as a springboard for 2022.
The Fire (8-16-7, 31 points) have shown signs of better days as they have gone 2-1-2 in their last five matches, including a 4-3 win over FC Cincinnati that marked the first victory since interim head coach Frank Klopas took over.
Chicago's offense has come to life, tallying nine goals over the past four matches.
Forward Luka Stojanovic scored his team-leading eighth goal on Wednesday when his tally in the 93rd minute snapped the deadlock against FC Cincinnati.
"I think this is the best season of my career," Stojanovic said. "Because (of) the minutes I play and the impact I give to the team, I think this is the best season so far for me because when I have better statistics in the last clubs, I have also much more minutes."
Stojanovic has been the Fire's most effective player on offense despite the fact he has come off the bench in 10 of his 25 matches.
For Real Salt Lake (12-11-6, 42 points), finding their groove on the road is crucial to the team's Western Conference playoff hopes. RSL have struggled away from home this season, winning just once in their past 10 road contests (1-8-1) but go against a Chicago defense that has yielded eight goals in its past three matches.
That plays perfectly into the skills of red-hot RSL midfielder Damir Kreilach, who has scored goals in a franchise-record five straight matches and credits the club's unity for his success.
"It's unbelievable. The mentality that we've brought for the second part of the season is unbelievable," said Kreilach. "You can have so much quality in the team, but if you don't have the right mentality, if you don't have fight and energy from the first to the last second, then you can't reach anything."
--Field Level Media