The Chicago Fire are inventing new ways to lose games in 2022.
Case in point, Saturday night in Toronto. The Fire outshot Toronto 33 to 5, with nine shots on target to TFC’s four. The Fire connected nearly 200 more passes, and had the ball for almost two-thirds of the game. Cover up the final score, and the two teams involved, and you’d bet your mortgage that the dominant team would have walked away easy winners.
But this is soccer, this is MLS, and most importantly, this is the Chicago Fire–rescuing losses from sure fire wins for more than a decade now. Xherdan Shaqiri was brilliant again, Kacper Przybylko scored, Jairo Torres finally started (and nearly scored, until he was ruled offside), and Rafael Czichos returned from his injury. And, they were playing Toronto FC, one of the worst teams in the league. Everything was there.
Then came that weird penalty. Yes, Alejandro Pozuelo had one foot in the corner of the box. Yes, Federico Navarro bumped him shoulder to shoulder. Yes, you can argue it’s a penalty by the letter of the law, although it fees like terrible luck, just like last week’s handball by Miguel Navarro against NYCFC. Then came the late winner by Pozuelo, lifting Toronto to a 3-2 win. The question is, after nearly everything has changed, why is this stuff still happening to the Fire so often?
The club’s latest head coach, Ezra Hendrickson, was hired in part because of his rich history of winning in MLS, both as a player and as an assistant coach. After Saturday night’s debacle, he sent this tweet: PROMISE: Losing a game like this will NOT become the trademark of this current CFFC. Neither will “giving up 2nd half leads” in away games.
Fire defender Miguel Navarro seemed baffled after this latest loss.
“I’m not really sure,” Navarro said. “It was an incredible game. Sometimes football is like that; it’s unjust. We have to keep working hard and look over everything. It was really incredible. But like I said we have to keep our heads up and keep working hard and keep moving forward so that we can get points.”
I know as the CHGO Fire writer, I’m supposed to have answers here. Honestly, I don’t. It’s not working, but it’s not the same old thing every game. It’s tough to find trends. On paper the team is solid, I believe in Hendrickson, and yet they’re finding new ways to fail every week. It’s incredible–and painful–to watch.
The Fire have the week off to relax with their loved ones, before returning to training on Friday. Maybe that’s the one thing that can fix this–a mental reset. The next game isn’t until June 18, when D.C. United comes to Soldier Field. With 20 games to play, the Fire are in dead last, but are still only seven points back of seventh place Inter Miami.
A playoff run is still doable, but only if the Fire can shake this funk once and for all.
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