In his game recap on Saturday night, Ruben called the Chicago Fire’s 2-0 win over Minnsota United their best performance of the season. I’m not sure I would go that far, but this was a very good win, and exactly the kind of performance I wish this team could post on a consistent basis. Maybe we’ll start seeing more games like this soon.
Here’s a few takeaways from Fire 2-0 MNUFC.
The Defense Is Getting Better, But...
Minnesota aren’t good, but they’re good enough that you can’t sleep on them. The Fire managed to keep a clean sheet against them, all while posting one of their better defensive performances of the season. This, combined with the 5-0 drubbing of New England in midweek and the goalless draw against LAFC the previous weekend, demonstrates that things are trending in the right direction.
There are still some pretty clear issues with the backline. Bastian Schweinsteiger’s speed and mobility, if he is indeed to transition to a central defender role, is still an issue. Johan Kappelhof and Marcelo need a little more time to gel. Francisco Calvo is still a big question mark hanging over the squad. And where, exactly, is Jeremiah Gutjahr?
So, some definite improvements, but also a fair amount of work to be done before this team can mount a serious challenge for a playoff spot.
The Waiting Game
The big downer of the game happened just after the half hour mark, when Nico Gaitán was subbed off following a hamstring injury. Head coach Veljko Paunovic said that while the injury doesn’t look too bad, Gaitán is still likely to miss some games.
It took a little bit for Gaitán to start gelling with the team, but over the past two games he’s become a crucial component of the Fire’s attacking play. So this injury that’s putting him on the shelf for a bit is awful timing.
The next however-many games without him are going to be an interesting test for the Fire. He hasn’t becomes so important that Chicago don’t know what to do without him, but the temporary loss of such a potent weapon will definitely require some adjustments. CJ Sapong and Przemysław Frankowski will likely be called on to deliver more creativity and threats, and we may even see a temporary change in formation.
I think the Fire can survive at least the next two games— San Jose on the road and NYCFC at home— without dropping too many points. But it’s pretty clear we’re going to miss Gaitán while he’s gone.
A Finer Grind
We at Hot Time are big fans of Brandt Bronico. We sensed that he could be a vital part of the squad in the future last year, and will likely end up being a defining part of our midfield for years to come.
Bronico came on for Gaitán in the first half. While his hour or so worth of play didn’t flatter the Audi Player Index, I feel like the eye test tells a different story. He helped keep the midfield together after one of their main attacking weapons left the pitch, and was no doubt part of why the Fire managed to keep Minnesota locked out of the game. That, plus his stupendous performance against New England in midweek, makes me think that he isn’t really a player for the future anymore, because that future is now.
We still had Basti (who can still play in midfield) and Dax McCarty, and we should get as much out of them while we’re still here. But I think that dream youth core of Bronico, Djordje Mihailovic, and Mo Adams is going to be our default starting midfield sooner rather than later. And I think it’s clear that that’s going to work out just fine.
So what were your takeaways from the win over Minnesota? Let us know in the comments below!