It was always going to be like this. Sometimes as fans and observers, we can forget the macro for a while and focus on the micro. The Fire were coming in feeling pretty good about themselves, after putting the thunder to an FC Dallas in free fall. They were getting set to play the 2019 winners of the Andrew Hauptman Memorial Wooden Spoon (since he’s gone does the name change now?), and looked to be in the drivers seat, or at least, had one foot in the car. However, we all forgot who this team is. They’re the bad human who’s always tempting us with treats, but even when we’re being good-est of boys (or girls) they never give us that milk-bone. They tease and tease and tease, only deny at the last possible second. In hindsight, this result was obvious.
In the first half, the Fire were utterly dominant. For the first twenty minutes, FC Cincinnati couldn’t get a word in edgewise. Przemysław Frankowski was absolutely fantastic. He owned FCC’s left side, and was constantly making Greg Garza, a 2017 MLS All-Star and league champion, look like a 19 year old fresh out of the academy.
If it wasn’t for several timely interceptions from Maikel van der Werff, the Fire would have been up at least two goals at the twenty minute mark. But alas, the Dutchman was up to the task of covering up for his teammates poor play, and the Fire remained goalless.
And then the Fire took their foot off the gas petal, just a little bit. Cinci started to come back into the game with some more possession and some sustained periods of passing. Granted, they never really threatened goal. Most of the possession was the ball being played harmlessly close to the center circle, and they never did anything with it except for one free kick header by Kendall Waston that was handled easily by Kenneth Kronholm.
But every minute that the The Orange and Blue had the ball was one less minute the Fire had to score a goal and take the lead. Based on both the overall quality between the two teams and how the game was playing out, it was really the Fire vs the clock, and FCC were barely an obstacle.
Going into halftime, I was satisfied with the Fire’s performance. If they kept it up, with the recognition of Frankowski’s exploitation of the right side, I figured that it would only be a matter of time before they scored.
Meanwhile, the news from Boston was good. The Revs were involved in another scoreless draw with Real Salt Lake, and with Montreal playing LA later in the evening, and the inevitable collapse of Orlando to Houston, all the results were coming up Fire.
It was not meant to be. The Fire came out in the second half, and while having an edge in possession, it was not the dominant performance that we saw in the first half. FCC was allowed to have space and create opportunities on the counter attack as the Fire threw everything they had forward. Veljko Paunovic did his part, bringing on three offensive substitutions to try to put on maximum pressure. But the goal never materialized, and the game finished scoreless.
We should have known it would end this way when the Fire couldn’t score in the opening twenty minutes. They’ve shown us multiple examples of their failure to finish this season, and tonight was just another one. A reminder of who this team is.
However, because this is MLS, they’re not completely done. Because the Revs also finished their game scoreless, the Fire are still three points back. If New England lose Wednesday at Portland and at home against NYCFC, and the Fire beat Toronto next week, then they go into the last day of the season tied on points and on record.
But we know better. We know how this ends. The club has been telling us all year.
The Chicago Fire (9W-11D-11L, 8th place, 38 pts) will play their last home game of the 2019 regular season, and their last ever in Bridgeview, next Sunday against Toronto FC.