Chicago Fire defender Miguel Navarro knows what’s at stake this Saturday when his team hosts Inter Miami at SeatGeek Stadium.
“It’s a final,” Navarro said Wednesday. “We are playing in a final, and we know that it’s a very, very important game, not only on Saturday but every game from now on. And we’ve been –we know that we are going to go out there and play the game of our lives.”
The Venezuelan defender is right. The Fire will certainly need to go five straight unbeaten to finish the season if they want any chance of making the playoffs, and at least four of those will have to be wins. Thirteen points out of 15 might do it; 15 of 15 will probably get it done, but even that’s not guaranteed.
Defensively, the Fire are one of the better teams in MLS. Goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina is second in the league in clean sheets, at 12, and he’s trailing a couple really strong goalkeepers from good teams who are tied at the top of the list: Philadelphia’s Andre Blake and NYCFC’s Sean Johnson.
But on the attack, the Fire are dismal. They’re bottom of the league in goals scored by a wide margin, and even after spending many millions in transfer fees and salaries on players like Xherdan Shaqiri, Jairo Torres, Chris Mueller and Kacper Przybylko, the Fire struggle to create chances. Flat out, it’s not working.
“I think our ability to put the ball in the back of the net is a big concern,” Fire head coach Ezra Hendrickson said. “Right now, with 12 shutouts, you’d expect a team with 12 shutouts to be above the playoff line but it’s a team that’s not scoring, with 27 goals on the year, that’s just not good enough.”
The Fire have played in seven 0-0 games this season, including the last two matches. If they’d found a way to score just one goal in half of those, they’d be above the playoff line.
“It is a little bit frustrating to see that that defensive effort doesn’t maybe translate offensively,” Navarro said. “So we are not completing the opportunities that we are creating and we are lacking a little bit there. But I think that hopefully for the remaining games, we are able to maintain those shutouts and keep going, and then also translate that into goals so that we can score more goals because we know that’s what we need to be able to win.”
The Fire-Inter Miami match kicks off at 7 p.m. CT Saturday. With Soldier Field busy with the Bears’ season opener the following day, it will be played back at the Fire’s former home, SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview.
Hendrickson said Xherdan Shaqiri, Rafael Czichos, and Brian Gutierrez are all back in training, but Jairo Torres is still out. Defender Wyatt Omsberg, who broke his foot over the summer, is out of his boot, but he’s still not ready to return.
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