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After waiting all season, in the 89th minute of last Sunday’s Chicago Fire season finale against the New England Revolution, Alex Monis finally got the call. The 19-year-old homegrown from Naperville had been on the bench plenty of times in the 2022 season, but hadn’t played a single minute for the Fire’s first team since the final match of the 2021 season.
“When they called my name, and I sprinted over as fast as I could to make sure I got on,” Monis tells CHGO.
To say Monis made the most of this brief appearance would be an understatement.
The Fire had just gone down 1-0 to the Revs a few seconds before, and they now needed a goal–quickly–to ensure they didn’t end the season on a loss. As he has all season, Alex’s dad, Rich, was waiting patiently in the stands to see if his son would finally get to play.
“We had a large group of family there, and it wasn’t looking good at the 88th minute,” Rich says. “We were just kind of hoping he’d get in, and it was late in the game. When I saw him run in from the corner taking off his warm ups, and the equipment manager handing him his jersey, that’s when I knew, and we were all excited when he was checking in at the line.”
Two minutes later, early in stoppage time, Fire defender Carlos Terán set up to take one of his freak show long throw ins near New England’s penalty area. Terán can throw the ball farther than just about every player on the planet, so the Fire treat these moments as a set piece, like a corner or a wide free kick. Monis was supposed to sit at the top of the 18-yard-box to break up a New England counter attack, but his teammate, Miguel Navarro, had other plans.
“Miguel told me, ‘Monis, get in the box, go score’,” Alex explains. “I was kind of between should I go in, should I respect the coaches’, you know, being at the top of the box. It was the last minute, we were down a goal, and I decided to just go with it.”
Good thing he did. New England goalkeeper Djordje Petrović and former U.S. international Omar Gonzalez “got their wires crossed,” as Fire play-by-play man Tyler Terens called it, and the ball ended up falling to Monis, who was running to the far post, following Navarro’s advice.
Monis’ first touch on the ball of the 2022 season was in the back of the net, and the game was tied.
“Really, I don’t remember anything from that moment besides just swinging my leg when the ball dropped,” Monis says. “Thankfully it went in, and from that point on it was a little bit of a blur, so much adrenaline, so excited. But looking over to the corner flag and seeing the fans erupt was just the best feeling, honestly.”
In the opposite corner of the stadium, Rich Monis was feeling a flood of emotions. A fan a few rows back caught his reaction on video.
“It was really difficult for me to tell who scored because everyone was running to the corner flag in celebration,” Rich says. “When the people around me told me it was Alex, that’s when I got excited, and then you hear his name being called, it was just–I can’t really explain the emotions that were going through my head. So many things.”
Rich was there with a large group of family and friends for the match. But, both he and Alex immediately thought of the one person who wasn’t there–at least not physically. A little less than a year ago, Alex’s mom and Rich’s wife, Jocelyn, died of cancer at the age of 49.
“I looked up at the sky, knowing my wife was watching,” Rich says.
“She was really the only one I was thinking of in that moment, as soon as it went in,” Alex says. “I have plenty of pictures of me looking to the sky when I scored that goal. I was around this time last year that she passed away, so to score in that moment was such an amazing feeling. To have some of her closest friends and family there to witness it was really just a special moment.”
After years of sacrifices, all those nights and weekends spent watching Alex and his sister play soccer, Rich and Jocelyn’s son had scored a goal for the Chicago Fire–in the very stadium where they used to go cheer on the team as a family.
“That night, when I got home, I had time to reflect going through all the social media, things like that,” Rich says. “That thought did cross my mind, the journey, the sacrifices that my wife and I had to make, for not only Alex, but his sister played soccer as well. Divide and conquer, keep the lawn chair in the back of the car, all those moments. That all crosses your mind.”
Alex did it. Jocelyn would be so proud.
“Ever since he was young, that’s what he wanted to do,” Rich says of his son. “He verbalized it. He said I want to be on that field. And his dream came true.”
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