The Chicago Fire needed four points in their last two games to grab one of the final two playoff spots in the MLS Eastern Conference. An hour into Wednesday night’s match against Minnesota United, it looked like three of those four points were in the bag.
But, poor marking and bad finishing would end up costing Chicago dearly, as Minnesota was able to escape Allianz Field with a 2-2 draw. It means the Fire will now need to beat New York City FC on Sunday afternoon at Soldier Field to make the playoffs, or they’ll have to hope for help from other teams to find a back door way in.
“It’s a lot of the same mistakes throughout the whole season,” Fire head coach Raphael Wicky said after the game. “First, we create a lot of chances, and we miss those big chances. Missing a big chance alone in front of the goalie is like making a big mistake as a defender or as a goalkeeper. We do mistakes on both ends of the game.”
Chicago struck first in the match in the 17th minute. Francisco Calvo, playing against his old club, slipped a fantastic long pass through to Przemyslaw Frankowski, who crossed the ball onto Robert Berić’s head for the opening goal. It was Berić’s 11th goal of the season, putting him tied for second in MLS with Columbus’ Gyasi Zardes, two behind LAFC’s Diego Rossi in the Golden Boot race.
Homegrown defender Mauricio Pineda would make it 2-0 Chicago in the 52nd minute, when he put away an Álvaro Medrán cross that took a deflection and fell to his feet. The play started with great hustle from Fabian Herbers, who fought to immediately win back a turnover back in the Chicago’s final third.
Shortly after, things started to go wrong for the Fire. Minnesota head coach Adrian Heath made a couple substitutions at the hour mark that injected life into the Loons’ flat attack—Aaron Schoenfeld and Emanuel Reynoso.
“It hurts,” Calvo said. “We feel this like a loss, even though we got a point on the road. We were controlling the game, we were managing the game. I think the subs for Minnesota changed the game, that’s my personal opinion.”
In the 64th minute, Reynoso whipped in a ball on a dangerous set piece, and Jose Aja was able to wrestle his way past Boris Sekulić to poke home the goal.
Fourteen minutes later, Minnesota would find the equalizer when Romain Metanire found Robin Lod wide open in the box. Lud ditched Calvo at the near post, and headed home Metanire’s cross to tie the match.
It looked like Berić had found the match winner late in stoppage time for Chicago, but a VAR check showed his scrappy far post finish was offside, and the match ended in a draw not long after that. It became yet another match where the Fire dropped points from a winning position this season, something that’s plagued the team.
“What is it?” Wicky asked. “Is it focus? Is it concentration? Is it bad luck? Is it quality? I cannot tell you. I cannot give you the answer.”
Despite being winless in the last five matches, the Fire find themselves in good position heading into Decision Day on Sunday. A win against NYCFC (2:30 p.m. CT, WGN & ESPN+) will get them either the ninth or tenth playoff spot, and would earn them an away match against either the New York Red Bulls or Nashville SC.
“Once you’re in, you’re in,” Fire defender Jonathan Bornstein said. “You can get a good run of games going, and find yourselves champions. So that’s our plan. Get three points on Sunday, and never look back.”
Chicago Fire FC: GK Shuttleworth, D Sekulić, D Bornstein (D Navarro 86’), D Calvo ©, D Pineda, M Medrán, M Mihailović (M Aliseda 70’), M Giménez, M Frankowski, M Herbers (F Collier 70’), F Berić
Subs not used: GK Sparrow, M Azira, D Terán, D Omsberg, D Kappelhof, M Gutiérrez
Minnesota United: GK St. Clair, D Aja, D Kallman, D Métanire, D Dibassy, M Molino, M Gregus ©, M Finlay (M Reynoso 60’), M Lod, M Hairston (M Musa 85’), F Kamara (F Schoenfeld 60’)
Subs not used: GK Zendejas, GK Emmings, D Billingsley, M Edwards