It was a windy, choppy, back and forth, sometimes sloppy, and often entertaining match, and in the end, the Chicago Fire and New England Revolution both escaped with a hard earned point in a 1-1 draw today.
The Fire came out in their new white away kits for the first time this season, and began the match with the same starting XI as last week—appearing to shift between a 4-1-4-1 when they were defending, and a 4-3-3 going forward.
The Revolution opened the scoring in the 28th minute, when Adam Buksa caught Fire defender Francisco Calvo ball watching. Calvo didn’t step forward to close down a pass, and Buksa was able to slip right by him with a left-footed touch, and put away a close range shot, leaving Fire goalkeeper Kenneth Kronholm no chance to save it.
The score was still 1-0 Revs in the 63rd minute, when Raphael Wicky brought on new designated player Gastón Giménez for right back Brandt Bronico. Giménez slid into his natural role as a defensive midfielder, Mauricio Pineda moved back to central defender, and the Fire shifted to a 3-5-2.
That tactical shift paid off seven minutes later, when Giménez played a beautiful long ball to Djordje Mihailović, who put a cross on Jonathan Bornstein’s head. Bornstein flicked it into the back of the net, and the Fire and Revs were tied 1-1. It was Bornstein’s first goal in a Fire jersey, and his first in MLS since playing for Chivas USA in 2008.
“I found myself getting forward, and Djordje and I kind of switched positions,” Bornstein said during his post-match interview on WGN-TV. “He served in a great ball, and I was happy to be in a good spot.”
This formation could be a glimpse of things to come for Chicago. Wicky has talked about using a three-man defense this season, and an analysis by Hot Time in Old Town earlier this year showed he was fond of it at his last professional coaching job at FC Basel, as well.
After the match, Wicky had nothing but praise for Giménez.
“Obviously, Gastón gave us what I expect that he gives us; calmness, he gives us experience, he gives us quality,” Wicky said, “It wasn’t easy for him. He just flew in a day ago. He’s never trained with the team, actually. It was not easy to bring him on the field, but he did good. You see he has quality.”
The score was still knotted in stoppage time, when New England’s Justin Rennicks missed a shot from inside the six-yard box that would have won it for the Revs. He put it over the bar, and the Fire escaped from New England with a point.
Bornstein said he was pleased the Fire battled back to grab a point on the road.
“I think it showed a lot of heart and character on this team,” Bornstein said. “In preseason we had one against the Galaxy that kind of went similar. We showed a lot of fight in that one, too. In the last game against Seattle, we battled to the end, also. We got a little unfortunate there, at the end. But I think that’s how this group has to be. We have to fight until the end, we have to do what it takes to always put ourselves in a position to get three points. That’s what we did tonight and we come away with one, and we’re happy to go home with that.”
Three players who weren’t involved in the scoring really stood out today. Alvaro Medrán was again strong and tidy on the ball in midfield, Pineda was solid at both defensive midfield and at central defender after the tactical shift, and with New England’s central defenders busy with striker Robert Berić, Przemyslaw Frankowski worked hard, making several grueling runs.
The Fire’s other new designated player to join the team this week, 19-year-old attacker Ignacio Aliseda, was on the roster but did not play. Defender Miguel Ángel Navarro made his Fire debut, coming on for Bornstein in the 81st minute.
It was also a solid debut for new Fire broadcast duo Tyler Terens and Tony Meola on WGN-TV. Arlo White joins the team after he wraps up his Premier League duties in May.
With today’s result, the Fire move to 0-1-1 on the season. Chicago visits Orlando City next Saturday, before hosting Atlanta United in the home opener at Soldier Field on March 21.
Chicago Fire FC: GK Kronholm, D Bronico (M Giménez 63’), D Kappelhof, D Calvo ©, D Bornstein (D Navarro, 81’), M Medrán, M Pineda, M Herbers, F Frankowski, F Berić, F Mihailović
Subs not used: GK Shutteworth, F Aliseda, D Azira, D Omsberg, F Collier
New England Revolution: GK Knighton, D Jones, D Kessler, D Farrell, D Bye, M Fagundez, M Zahibo, F Bunbury (F Rennicks 79’), F Bou, F Penilla (F Buchanan 79’), F Buksa
Subs not used: M S. Caldwell, M Rowe, D Mancienne, GK J. Caldwell, M Rivera