We’re a third of the way through the season and things aren’t feeling too great.
The Chicago Fire have a distinctly average record of 3 wins, 4 draws, and 4 losses. Watching the the games often feel like waiting for the sky to fall.
I went back and looked at every game the Fire have played so far and tried to see why the results are what they are, and figure out if there were any patterns or consistences that could be found in the results.
2-1 Loss away to the LA Galaxy
It was a Jekyl and Hyde start to the season. CJ Sapong had the Fire in dreamland with his opening goal, putting the Men in Red up 1-0 at the start of the second half. Then they were undone by Efraín Alvarez, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and defensive errors to finish with a loss to start the season.
1-1 Draw to Orlando City
The Fire should have won this game. Nemanja Nikolic’s yips started here, and he still hasn’t really recovered from them. The Fire’s defense let an Orlando team score a goal they had no business scoring when Dom Dwyer somehow beat Johan Kappelhof to a ball that was right in front of him. CJ Sapong saved the day with a last second goal.
4-2 Loss to the Seattle Sounders
Seattle scored early twice and never looked back. Despite the Fire calming down and playing relatively well afterward; they had more possession and created more scoring chances than the Sounders, defensive errors and Niko’s inability to put the ball in the back of the net continued to hurt them. A penalty and a Raúl Ruidíaz finish from a counter attack cemented the loss.
1-0 Win vs the New York Red Bulls
This was the Fire's first win, first clean sheet, and worst offensive performance of the year so far. They fell short on every performance metric except two— shots and goals scored. Their passing was atrocious and they had the ball a paltry 35 percent of the game. Their goal wasn’t even ruled as theirs, as NYRB defender Tim Parker got credited with an own goal. They did, however, play solid defensively for the first time that year. They gave up only one shot on goal the entire game, and stayed organized throughout the entire match.
2-2 draw at Toronto FC
This was the Fire’s toughest test and they did alright by themselves. Going against the top team in the conference is never easy and TFC were firing on all cylinders. Jozy Altidore scored a Jozy Altidore goal, and Jonathan Osorio scored an equalizer in which he was left alone at the back post. In a game where Sapong and Niko’s goals had the Fire in the lead for some time, it felt like the Fire dropped points.
1-1 draw to the Vancouver Whitecaps
This is the second game of the year that the Fire absolutely should have won, but didn’t. It continued on the theme of good play ruined by defensive mistakes. Vancouver had nothing for the Fire, and needed a real defensive error to do anything. They got one early on in the second half when David Ousted caught a case of the Richard Sanchez’s and the Fire had to come from behind in a game they were dominating. The Fire also took 23 shots, missed all of them, and needed a penalty just to tie it back up.
4-1 Win vs the Colorado Rapids
This is where things looked like they could turn around for this team. The Fire won a game that they absolutely should have won, and did so in dominant fashion. They scored four goals with four different goalscorers, and new Argentine playmaker Nico Gaitán seemed to be settling in. The lone goal given up was Kei Kamara doing what he does best, scoring on the Fire.
1-0 Loss away to New York City FC
This is the standout worst performance so far. The attack had no teeth. They never really threatened to score, and the defense was undone for the goal on a counter that was successful because NYC took full advantage of the short length of the pitch, and the Fire also fell asleep in transition.
1-0 Loss away to the Montreal Impact
This was the second of back to back poor performances for largely the same reasons as the NYCFC match. Jorge Corrales was panted on the end line by Omar Browne for the only goal of the game, and the Fire once again blew high percentage shots in front of goal.
0-0 draw at LAFC
Another good result. At the time of the match, I thought it was a really good performance in a vacuum. On defense they were quick to recover from mistakes. Help was always there and it felt like they smothered LA whenever they got into dangerous spots. However, once again, the Fire struggled offensively and did not convert the chances they created.
5-0 Win vs the New England Revolution
The performance here was not that great despite the absolute destruction of the rival Revs. New England provided almost no resistance to the Fire’s attack and provided very little offensive threat of their own. It looked more like a training scrimmage than an actual competitive contest. Against any other team in the league, the Fire drop points.
There’s a pattern emerging. The Men in Red should be better than there record shows. They rarely play ninety minutes of purely bad football. In every game, save at NYCFC, they always have scoring opportunities, and generally play solid soccer. But far too often the Fire undone by not taking advantage of scoring opportunities, as well as singular poor defensive moments. It seems it’s inevitable that at some point during the match, they will sabotage themselves into giving up points.
And I don’t see it improving. Eleven games with the same errors and lapses in concentration means that this just is the identity of the team. They play decent quality football before stabling themselves in the foot, either by not scoring when they should or giving up goals when they shouldn’t.
We’re at the point in the season where results are far more important than performances in deciding who is good or not. As the old saying goes, you are what your record is. And the Fire just aren’t good enough.