Chicago Fire 2 Castro 19’, Ruiz 27’
Florida Gulf Coast University 0
The Fire preseason continued to chug along as the Men in Red faced off against Florida Gulf Coast University.
This match was certainly more exciting than the Fires previous two preseason outings. Collier thought he opened the scoring when he slotted slotted a finish passed the FGCU keeper, but had his goal called back for offside. The deadlock would be broken for good soon after, when Castro tapped in a low cross from Collier to give the Fire a 1-0 lead.
Chicago would make it two at the half hour mark, when Ruiz headed home from a corner. Collier had a great chance to grab a goal for himself early in the second half after being played through brilliantly by Bakero, but hit his shot right at the FGCU goalkeeper. Ruiz almost had a brace, but was denied after his header hit off of the far post.
Chicago came close to grabbing a third at the very end, but FGCU were just able to clear the ball away to end the match.
Plenty of chances were created, and the defense did well to not make any boneheaded mistake. As always, there were plenty of talking points to have fans talking on Twitter.
The Fire had six players miss out on the game through injury. Two of those were De Leeuw and Mihailovic, who sustained ACL injuries last season and will be out until the summer. The other four are a bit more worrisome. Daniel Johnson has sustained some sort of ankle injury, which is a shame as he had been getting consistent minutes so far this preseason after missing a large chunk of last season. Lillard was out with a knee injury, while a hip problem kept Solignac away from the field.
The scariest absence might be Matt Polster, who is reported to have a knee injury. The US international has had rotten luck with injuries throughout his career. He is expected to shine at right back this season, and fans will have to hope Fire management are just being overly cautious with the player.
Trialists Get Their Chance
Paunovic gave a start to six uncontracted players for today’s game: Corrales, Moreira, Castro, Ruiz, Campos, and Collier. As we get closer and closer to the season opener against Kansas City, management has to start figuring out who to offer a contract to and who to let go. Campos and Collier linked up well early, with the former seemingly setting up the latter for a goal, but it was later called back for offside.
Castro was able to grab a goal himself soon after, tapping in a low cross from short range. Most of the starters were given the day off, so that allowed these players plenty of time to showcase their talents.
One notable trialist that did not feature was Josh Gatt, who was also a late scratch for Wednesday’s game against Montreal. He was decent enough early on, and many thought the Fire might offer him a contract. His continued absence suggests that things may not be working out for Gatt and his audition with the Fire.
Set Pieces Might Be a Thing Again
The Fire aren’t great on dead ball plays. We all know this. Chicago didn’t score a single goal off a free kick or corner in all of 2017. That, however, may be changing.
The Fire scored from a set piece in consecutive matches, with Dax heading it in from a free kick on Wednesday and Ruiz converting after a corner was whipped in in today’s match. The team’s inability to capitalize on set pieces hurt the Fire last season, as opponents were more than willing to clear the ball away for a corner. However, if the Fire can keep this up, they may be able to patch a long-standing weakness in their game.
Christian Dean: Preseason MVP
Dean has continued to be the most influential player for the Fire this preseason. The centerback carried the ball up the pitch time after time, and would kickstart most attacking moves. He seemed confident in everything he did, and made some decent tackles to win back position.
Dean had a difficult time adjusting to life in Chicago last year after being traded midseason before having his season prematurely ended due to injury. Kappelhof will be a starter in 2018, but there remains a question on who would be his partner in central defense. As preseason goes on, it seems that Dean might just be the man who starts alongside the Dutchman against Sporting KC.