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Chicago Fire 1, FC Cincinnati 2: What We Learned

Can only go up from here, right?

MLS: FC Cincinnati at Chicago Fire Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Fire lost a game they should’ve won. It’s not the first time this has happened in 2019. It almost certainly won’t be the last. But somehow, losing at home to the worst team in the league— a team that had a GA of 44 heading into the game— really, really stings. Probably the biggest takeaway here is that, no matter how much you manage your expectations, the Fire will always find a way to let you down.

Here’s what else we learned from Fire 1-2 Cincy.

Nico Gaitán Will Not Save Us

There’s no denying that the Fire are a better team with Nico Gaitán on the pitch. Their forward movement and passing is better. They look more dangerous on set pieces. They create more opportunities. By most measures, Gaitán is a decent pick-up.

But “better” doesn’t necessarily mean “good.”

Gaitán has clear flaws in his game— several of which were exposed in the loss to Cincinnati. He missed two penalties, and only scored because he got lucky on the rebound for that second penalty. And that goal was the only one the Fire could manage— which, for all that he was hailed as a South American trequartista with experience in Europe, seems downright galling.

The Fire needed a player to come in an transform this team into a legitimately dangerous one. It’s clear now that, as skilled as he is, Nico Gaitán is not that player.

Wasting Opportunities

We talk so much about the Fire creating so many goalscoring opportunities and being unable to finish them we could practically start a whole podcast about it. No other game this season has emphasized this problem so keenly.

As Ruben noted in his recap, FC Cincinnati did their level best to hand three points over to the Fire, and the Fire repeatedly declined. That may be the most frustrating things about this team right now; they have the talent, they have the motivation, they’ve even had some decent luck, but they just cannot take advantage of any of it. It’s like this team is allergic to success.

There’s no real takeaway here in the sense that a lesson can be learned and used to improve going forward. But it’s still worthwhile to name the problem.

We’ve Officially Hit Bottom

Every bad Fire season has a At Least It Can’t Get Any Worse point. Last year’s nadir came around this same time— mid July, when the Fire lost 4-3 at home to Philadelphia, with David Accam scoring the game winner, in the middle of an ongoing boycott by Section 8.

The loss to Cincy is probably the low point in 2019. Losing at home to the worst team in the league is just too awful to take in stride. It’s hard to imagine how things could get better for this team, but it probably won’t get much worse.

Then again, I could be wrong. The thing about hitting rock bottom is that it’s supposed to be good for you. That’s what all the self-help books say, at any rate. Being at your lowest point is what lets you turn things around. The problem is that the Fire keep hitting low points and not meaningfully getting better afterward. So either we haven’t yet hit rock bottom— which is a terrifying thought for anyone who follows this team— or the Fire are just sort of stuck near the bottom forever.

I’m not sure which is worse. But that’s where we are.

What were your takeaways from the game? Let us know in the comments below.