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Heavy Legs: Chicago Fire draw with FC Cincinnati 0-0

After four matches in 13 days, fatigue is setting in for the Fire

MLS: Chicago Fire at FC Cincinnati Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Fire looked slow, tired, and had to fight their way into Wednesday night’s 0-0 draw with FC Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium. Earning a point on the road is a good result in MLS, but this match felt like one the Fire should have won.

“We started a bit slow,” Fire head coach Raphael Wicky said after the match. “It’s not an easy place to play here. No one really scores here that much. No one really wins here. They’re very tough to play in that 5-3-2, and we knew that.”

The Fire nearly gave up a goal very early, but Man of the Match Bobby Shuttleworth came up big, saving a point blank Cincinnati header in the first minute.

“We switched off a bit, and in the first couple minutes, that’s not something that can happen,” Shuttleworth said. “We’ll have to go over that, and make sure it’s corrected for the next game. In terms of confidence, it’s nice always to get an early touch, and make a big save when you need to. But that’s why I’m there, to make saves.”

The match was lifeless until the 61st minute, when Wicky brought on Elliot Collier, Djordje Mihailović, and Jonathan Bornstein. Instantly, the Fire had legs again, and they nearly scored in the 70th minute, when Collier slid a ball from the right side of the 18 yard box to Ignacio Aliseda, who calmly dribbled by several Cincinnati defenders, and slotted it into goal with his left foot.

But, the goal was disallowed after a VAR check because of a handball in the buildup. Still, the energy from the substitutes brought the Fire back into the match.

“The subs came in really strong,” Fire midfielder Gastón Giménez said. “We needed that freshness. With so many games back to back, it’s important they come in with that freshness. And today they showed they’re ready to play.”

A few minutes later, VAR crushed Chicago’s hopes yet again. Robert Berić was left bleeding in the box after banging heads with Cincinnati defender Kendall Waston. Berić was down for several minutes, requiring a wrap around his bleeding head, but there was no penalty given. It looked like a penalty live, but after video review, it wasn’t as clear cut.

“I said it was a penalty,” Wicky said. “If it would have been against us, I probably would have said no. So I cannot judge it. With VAR, they checked it. We gotta trust the referees and take their decision. From my view, I couldn’t really tell.”

For the Fire, this was the fourth match in just under two weeks, with three of those on the road. Other than Shuttleworth, Wicky kept the starting eleven unchanged from the team that lost 3-1 to NYCFC over the weekend.

“I felt some guys had a little bit of heavy legs, which is normal after all these games,” Wicky said. “And the subs came in very well. I’m very pleased with Jonny, Djordje, Elliot and also Wyatt (Omsberg) who came in very late in the game, which is not easy.”

With the draw, the Fire move to 2-5-2 on the season, currently sitting 13th in the MLS Eastern Conference standings. Chicago returns to Soldier Field to host the New England Revolution on Sunday (6:30 p.m. CT, WGN & ESPN+).

Chicago Fire FC: GK Shuttleworth, D Sekulić, D Pineda (D Omsberg, 90+2’), D Calvo ©, D Navarro (D Bornstein, 62’), M Frankowski (F Collier, 62’), M Giménez, M Medrán, M Aliseda, M Herbers (M Mihailović, 62’), F Berić

Subs not used: GK Sparrow, M Azira, D Bronico, M Gutiérrez, D Reynolds II

Shots: 13 Shots on goal: 1 Fouls: 17 Offsides: 0 Corners: 6 Possession: 48.0%

FC Cincinnati: GK Tyton, D Waston ©, D Garza (D Gutman, 76’), D Deplagne, D van der Werff, M Medunjanin (M Stanko, 86’), M de Jong (M Kubo, 63), M Amaya, F Regattin (F Cruz, 63’), F Locadia, F Gyau

Subs not used: GK Edwards, D Petterson, D Hagglund, D Bailey, F Vazquez

Shots: 8 Shots on goal: 3 Fouls: 12 Offsides: 3 Corners: 2 Possession: 52.0%