It’s an interesting time to be a Chicago Fire fan.
Most years, we’d have already written them off. After a brutal, rain-soaked 2-1 loss Saturday night to the New York Red Bulls, the Fire now sit in 13th place in the MLS Eastern Conference. The Fire have as many non-penalty goals (4) as they have players sent off for a second yellow card. After a strong start that had the Fire as high as second place in the East, they’re now winless since mid-March.
Defense may well win championships, but you have to actually score goals first. Despite the inspired signings of Xherdan Shaqiri and Kacper Przybylko, the Fire can’t find the back of the net. With Shaqiri’s two penalties they’ve scored six total goals in MLS play this season. At just 9 xG, Chicago sits next-to-last in the East in Expected Goals.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. The team’s defense has allowed a league-low seven goals this season. Recent Fire teams were almost guaranteed to give up a stupid goal every game thanks in part to sloppy, wild defending by former captain Francisco Calvo, but the all-business duo of German Rafael Czichos and Mainer Wyatt Omsberg have things buckled down, with the help of club-legend-turned-assistant-coach CJ Brown guiding them from the bench. And we can’t forget Addison’s Gaga Slonina in net, the best 17-year-old goalkeeping prospect on Earth, and a humble dude to boot.
Attacking help is on the way, too. Mexican star Jairo Torres, who just scored in his final match for Atlas FC over the weekend, will be officially unveiled as a Fire player on Tuesday, and could be ready to play as soon as Saturday in Atlanta. The Fire are absolutely desperate for help out wide, something head coach Ezra Hendrickson has admitted. In addition to Torres, Chicago has two more open roster spots to fill, which Hendrickson has said could come before the 11:59 p.m. CT transfer deadline looming this Wednesday, May 4. If the deals don’t get done, we’ll have to wait until the summer transfer window opens in July.
“I think we definitely need some pace on the wings,” Hendrickson said. “For two things: We need to be able to get behind defenses off the ball, stretch defenses, and that would help give Shaq and Gastón (Giménez) and Jairo when he comes, guys like that, more spaces to work underneath, because as is, I think teams are –the back four know the player they can keep in front of them, and it’s a little easy to shut a team down when you know there’s no real threat to get behind.”
So don’t give up hope just yet. If Georg Heitz and the club’s sporting staff get the next couple of signings right, this team should have enough quality to sneak into the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
If not, it’ll be an all too familiar feeling of missing out yet again.
Welcome to CHGO Fire
Either way, we’ll be talking about it all season here at CHGO. Alex Campbell and I are recording our first CHGO Fire podcast live from our West Loop studio this Wednesday, May 4, at 12:15 p.m. CT. You can watch live on YouTube, or listen later wherever you get your podcasts.
My written Fire coverage is shifting over to CHGO this week, too, and I really hope you’ll consider supporting us. I’m going to continue with all the same coverage you’re used to reading at Hot Time in Old Town — Fire Notebooks, breaking news, injury updates, player interviews, columns, previews, and more. It’s $8.99 for a monthly subscription, or consider the $59.98 yearly subscription that gets you access to everything, plus a sweet free CHGO Fire t-shirt (yes, it’s red, as it should be).
There’s also a deal where you can sign up for a PointsBet account, and get a year’s subscription for free!
It’s not just Fire coverage you’re getting, either — you’ll get to read everything from our huge team covering the Bears, Bulls, Sox, Cubs, Blackhawks, Sky and, Red Stars (if you haven’t heard, we have Sandra Herrera and Claire Watkins on board, too).
Whatever happens this season, we’re going to be a blast. I hope you’ll join us for the ride. Go Fire!