The Fire lost again, but they say you always learn more from defeat than victory. That means Fire fans are some of the smartest soccer fans in the country.
So here’s what I learned from the Fire’s loss to the New York Red Bulls last Saturday.
Ever Get That Feeling of Déjà Vu?
It never fails to amaze me at how inefficient the 2019 Chicago Fire are. This was another of those games where the Fire created a lot of chances and ended up empty handed.
Fire did dominate xG once again tonight, but once again couldn't turn that dominance into something tangible on the scoreboard. Not unusual when you spend a lot of time playing from behind. pic.twitter.com/WMWxgLTw2T— Matthew Doyle (@MattDoyle76) June 29, 2019
The Fire dominated the stat sheet. They had 26 shots total, more than twice of the Red Bulls 10 total shots. They had three more shots on target, Nick Robles to make a stunning 7 saves throughout the contest. They had a huge majority of the ball at all relevant times, ending the game with 62% possession, and a passing accuracy of 79% to the Red Bulls; 64%. The Fire should have won this game.
But they didn’t.
A few weeks ago, I used the Lucy/Charlie Brown football metaphor to describe how it feels to be a fan of this club this season. It’s an overused cliche to be sure, but the reason for that is because Chuck Schultz was able to capture a large swath of the human experience with one gag. The anticipation which grabs you as you know that this time you will succeed and get over the hump. The feeling of dread as the football is pulled away and the humiliation of landing flat on your backside. Then, eventually, you get up and try to kick that football again.
That’s what it’s like to be a Fire observer at the moment. It’s a long grueling cycle of failure and belief that sooner or later, this team will find a way to turn these expected goals into actual goals. Except it looks more and more likely that they won’t.
The Fire were ultimately undone by the counter attack for the umpteenth time in the last decade. I understand it happens to the best of teams at times. Defending counter-attacks is probably one of the hardest things to do in the modern game. Players are faster and more skilled than ever before, and making up the difference while the attacking team has both a momentum advantage and a player advantage is extremely difficult.
However, to be undone multiple times without managing anything like a competent defense is just too much. The Fire’s back 4 were torn to shreds by the Red Bulls’ counter-attacks. Jorge Corrales, for all his improvements, still can’t deal with players running at him. Bastian Schweinsteiger is too slow. Marcelo isn’t the quickest either. And Brandt Bronico isn’t equipped to handle all this as the emergency RB. All of that equals disaster for the Fire,
Katai Is A Hero
I don’t care one lick about the MLS All-Star game. It’s an antiquated concept destined to bring in cash for a showcase match against a team who doesn’t care played by players who will never play with each other in any meaningful context.
That being said, the fact that Aleksander Katai is not on the roster is a travesty. He is, by far, the best and most impactful player on the Fire roster. When nothing else is going right, he’s the player that steps up to create something out of nothing for the club, and it truly is a pleasure to have him wear the shirt and the crest. I’m excited to watch games just to see what nonsense he can do, and anything that gets me excited to watch the Fire nowadays is a good thing.
The Real Reason They Lost
Who decided to wear the navy shorts with the white tops? Teams have been demoralized by poor fashion choices before. Famously Manchester United had to change their kit at halftime to beat Southampton in April of 1996. (It didn’t work, they still lost 3-1) You have to look good to play good, and the Fire didn’t look good at all. Seriously, did they not have the white shorts available? Whoever made this call should be sacked.
Those are my takeaways from the match, What about yours? Leave them in the comments below.