Chicago Fire FC II was staring at a fourth defeat of its inaugural MLS NEXT Pro season on Sunday night, but the 10-men hosts had to grind their way to two points after fighting back to tie Philadelphia Union II and defeat the East Coast visitors 5-4 on penalty kicks.

Ryan Quintos scored the winning penalty kick while goalkeeper Mihaijo Miskovic denied Jackson Gilman as Chicago Fire II moved to three points through its opening five matches of 2022. Chinonso Offor scored twice in regulation, including a 91st-minute equalizer for Ludovic Taillandier’s side to end 3-3 and set the stage for the shootout.

In regulation, Chicago Fire II struck first in the 17th minute, five minutes after Union II’s Chris Donovan’s would-be opening goal was wiped away due to an offsides call. Forward Victor Bezerra slotted home from the penalty spot after Union II defender Nathan Nkanji hauled down the Homegrown forward in the box.

Miskovic was busy in the first half, denying Donovan on a pair of headed attempts in the 35th minute. Those saves proved to be key as Fire II would double their lead through Offor’s long-range effort deflected off a Union II defender and into Brooks Thompson’s net.

Union II looked like a new team after halftime, putting Chicago Fire II on the backfoot from the 45th minute onward. Kendall Burks brought down Jack Jasinski in the box, allowing midfielder Cole Turner the chance to slot home from the penalty spot and cut the deficit to 2-1.

Frustration boiled over for Chicago Fire II as Bezerra received a second yellow card for a foul on Brandan Craig. Bezerra was whistled on a heavy collision with Craig, giving the referee little to consider before sending him to the locker room.

Union II took advantage of Bezerra’s dismissal by equalizing off a set piece one minute after the ejection. Boubacar Diallo’s dangerous cross from the left wing was headed home by Donovan, giving the visitors a major chance at victory with 30+ minutes remaining.

Despite Union II being reduced to 10 men after Jasinski’s red-card challenge on Missael Rodriguez in the 71st minute, the visitors swung the scoreline into their favor for the first time on the night. Nkanji set up Donovan inside of the Fire II box, allowing the forward to beat Miskovic for his second goal of the night.

Chicago Fire II kept its foot on the gas and Offor’s close-range finish following a corner kick helped the hosts force the shootout and avoid a fourth defeat in five matches.

After both teams successfully scored on their first-round attempts, Miskovic dove to his left to deny Gilman in the second round for his sixth save of the match.

Alex Monis, Josh Penn, and Matteo Kidd all got the better of Thompson on their attempts before Quintos beat the former Sporting KC II man for the winning penalty kick.

Philadelphia Union II is now winless in its last two matches and will hope a return to Subaru Park on April 30 can help turn the page and start a new unbeaten run. Chicago Fire FC II heads into a bye week before continuing a three-match homestand against Minnesota United FC II on May 8.

The Story: Miskovic’s heroics propel Fire II to shootout win

Mihajlo Miskovic knows a little bit about representing the city of Chicago. After excelling at Northwestern University during his collegiate career, the Serbian shot-stopper has fit right into the plans with Chicago Fire II. 

Miskovic helped this side avoid a costly fourth defeat in the early 2022 MLS NEXT Pro season by making six saves, including one in the penalty shootout of a 5-4 result. The 24-year-old delivered several key stops against Philadelphia Union II, keeping Fire II in the match, especially after Victor Bezerra’s red card ejection. 

Miskovic moved to the Chicago area as a teenager and previously was a member of the Fire’s academy. Miskovic totaled 62 appearances for the Northwestern Wildcats during his five years in the BIG TEN, before signing with Fire II in late March. 

Miskovic came into Sunday’s match with 13 saves during the early stages of the regular season, which were the seventh-most in MLS NEXT Pro play. His stellar night at SeatGeek Stadium not only helped the Fire claim two points but also avoid a lopsided defeat. 

Union II will feel disappointed they were unable to hang onto a late lead, but Miskovic’s key saves were a big reason why Fire II walked away with an important result at home.