Robert Berić scored his first goal in a Chicago Fire uniform, but Jordan Morris stole the show coming on as a second-half substitution for Seattle, and the Sounders ended up beating the Fire 2-1 in a heartbreaking opener to the MLS season.
Chicago looked strong in the first half, and it was clear new coach Raphael Wicky’s vision was coming together. Debutant Alvaro Medrán combined well with Djordje Mihailović and Jonathan Bornstein on the left side of the Fire’s final third, and homegrown signing Mauricio Pineda also made his debut, playing all 90 minutes in a solid performance in central midfield.
For all the success of the first half, a couple chances called offside would come back to haunt the Fire. Berić was caught offside in the 28th minute after finishing a beautiful cross from Bornstein, and Mihailović had another goal called off in the 35th minute, and the Fire entered the break tied with Seattle 0-0.
“Like we said in the locker room: we are a good team,” Berić said after the match. “We have to believe in this. I think we showed everybody today that it’s going to be tough to play against us. We have good players. We are one compact team.”
The second half started beautifully. Berić scored right away to put the Fire up 1-0, after Mihailović chested down a fantastic aerial ball from Medrán. But, it was all Sounders after that.
After coming on, Morris was giving Fire right-back Brandt Bronico nightmares down the flank. The U.S. international beat Bronico to put away a cross from Cristian Roldan in the 62nd minute, tying the match 1-1. Bronico, who was playing out of position as the Fire wait for new right back Boris Sekulić to arrive from Europe, struggled with Morris’ speed.
Wicky brought on Elliot Collier in the 70th minute, and the Kiwi almost delivered a goal after wrestling the ball away from his defender in the 82nd minute, but it was saved by Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
The referee put up six minutes of stoppage time, and Morris took advantage, scoring his second of the day off a corner kick while standing completely unmarked in Chicago’s six-yard box, giving Seattle a 2-1 win on a day where the club unveiled its 2019 MLS Cup banner.
“I think overall it was a very exciting, very good game,” Wicky said. “From our side, there were a lot of positives. There were a lot of positives. It’s the hard side of this game, obviously, to concede the losing goal in minute 92 or 93, but overall it was a very good performance from the team. There are a lot of positives to build on. But obviously we’re very disappointed to have lost.”
Today’s loss means the Fire have still never won a match in Seattle. The team heads back to Chicago this week, before next week’s away match against the New England Revolution, which will be the debut of the Fire’s new broadcast deal with WGN-TV.
Chicago’s Starting XI: Kronholm; Bornstein, Calvo (c) , Kappelhof, Bronico; Mihailović, Pineda, Medrán, Herbers, Frankowski; Berić
Subs: Collier for Mihailović 70’, Azira for Herbers 80’
Fire Goals: Beric 46’
Next Up: MLS Regular Season Match 2: New England Revolution vs. Chicago Fire | Saturday, March 7, 12:30 p.m. CT | Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass. | TV: WGN, Streaming: ESPN+, Radio: Univision Radio WRTO AM 1200