Chicago Fire 1 Gaitán 45’+4
FC Cincinnati 2 Cruz 1’, Adi 82’
I wrote in my column this week that the reason everything feels bad about the Fire is that we should be feeling the exact opposite. Tonight was just another example of that, and it’s infuriating.
The best thing that happened tonight came in the 22nd minute. The referee for tonight, Fotis Bazakos stopped the match and sent the teams to their locker rooms due to lightning in the area. It meant that I was able do in something I’m not used to doing in 2019; watching something entertaining on a Saturday night. I was free for almost an hour to do something other than a watch a Chicago Fire match where they struggled to finish chances and had fallen behind early. And boy did they fall behind early.
Just 45 seconds in, a cross from Leonardo Bertone hit Fabian Herbers in the chest. The ball took him by surprise as it bounced off of him into the path of Allan Cruz, who made a very simple finish look extremely difficult with a jumping roundhouse shot from 3 yards.
From there it was all Fire, but as per usual, what looked good on the stat sheet failed the eye test spectacularly.
10 minutes in, the Fire have 60% possession, 86% pass completion, and are down 1-0. Rinse and repeat. #CHIvCIN #cf97 #MLS— Hot Time In Old Town (@HotTimeOldTown) July 14, 2019
Things never really got better, and even when things were going right, they managed to find ways to screw it up. Nico Gaitán had a pair of penalties, and missed them both. The first miss, won by a foul on CJ Sapong that needed a VAR check to confirm the penalty, went off the post in the 21st minute— just before the lightning delay.
The second miss came right before halftime. His penalty effort, this time from a handball in the box, was stopped by a diving Spencer Richey. Luckily he coughed up a rebound that went right back to Nico, and the Argentine finally put the ball away in order to tie the match just as the first half expired.
The second half was sloppy by both teams. The ball was wet from all the rain and was slipping around uncontrollably causing both teams to screw up passes. It was hard for one team to keep possession for long periods of time, but by the 70th minute the Fire had taken control again and looked to be the team that was most likely to take the lead and the three points.
And then Fernando Adi checked in. His effect on the game was immediately noticeable. Suddenly, FC Cincy looked like dangerous soccer team. But his form has been off this season and he hadn’t played much since leaving Portland due to injuries. But because it’s the 2019 Chicago Fire he was playing against, of course, he was going to score. In the 83rd minute Kekuta Manneh played him off the left side of the circle at the top of the box, where Adi wasted no time shooting, and a diving Kronholm couldn’t stop it. The Fire were down a goal late to the worst team in the league and they would never recover.
The 2019 season wasn’t supposed to be like this. Despite the worries about coaching and the roster, especially on the defensive side, the Chicago Fire were supposed to have the offensive firepower to mask some of these issues, at least until they could fix them during the summer transfer window.
As we all know now, that’s not how it turned out. This year has been an absolute nightmare. That powerful offense we expected has only showed up twice. Once against Colorado and once against Atlanta. Every other game they’ve either been wasteful,or not shown up at all.
FC Cincinnati did everything it could to try to throw the game away, and the Fire, for whatever reason, couldn’t take advantage. It’s disgusting, and something has to change. There’s a scheduled media roundtable with Nelson Rodriguez scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. Maybe something will change.
But don’t hold your breath.
The Chicago Fire (5W 7D 9L, 22 pts, 10th place) are back at it on Wednesday at home when they take on eternal rivals Columbus Crew.