Saturday’s preseason match between the Chicago Fire and Vancouver Whitecaps may have officially been a “friendly,” but on the field it looked more like a Tuesday night Concacaf Champions League special. It was chippy. There were plenty of hard fouls, and at least one scuffle between the two sides. And when the freight trains weren’t screeching by SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, there was plenty of angry shouting, too.
In the end, the Whitecaps pulled it out, 3-2.
“It was a very intensive game,” Fire head coach Raphael Wicky said after the match. “I think we needed that, both teams needed that, a week prior to the opener. So, I’m very happy with the intensity. Obviously, I’m not happy with the result.”
Wicky went with something pretty close to his best XI to begin the match, with the only surprise perhaps being Johan Kappelhof starting over Mauricio Pineda at the right center back position. And after a long preseason filled with injuries, another key Fire player was hurt in the very first minute. Miguel Navarro, who was playing on the left side of midfield, went down, and walked straight into the tunnel after a visit from the Fire’s trainers. Navarro apparently felt something wrong in warm ups, tried to go, but had to come off right away. It’s a leg injury of some kind, and the Fire are hopeful it’s not serious.
Vancouver would get on the board not long after that, when Gastón Giménez sent a sloppy pass in the direction of Francisco Calvo at the midfield circle. Cristian Dajome got to the ball first, and was able to hold off Calvo for 50 yards to put it away.
The Fire equalized a few minutes later, after Robert Berić—who otherwise struggled on the day—buried a penalty earned by Luka Stojanović, who was dumped in the box.
Vancouver would score twice more off set pieces. The first came in the 30th minute, when Lucas Cavallini—who was unmarked—buried a beautiful header off a corner kick. Fire goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth was livid with his side after the goal.
In the 60th minute, Cavallini made it 3-1, curling a perfect free kick around the Fire’s wall, putting it out of Shuttleworth’s reach in the top corner of the near post.
To Chicago’s credit, they kept battling, and would make it 3-2 when Calvo headed a flawless cross from Pineda—who came on for Kappelhof not long before that—into the back of the net.
Pineda's cross: A+— Chicago Fire FC (@ChicagoFire) April 10, 2021
Calvo's header: A+ pic.twitter.com/BqAH4pWKPj
The Fire created several chances in the final minutes, but could not find the equalizer.
“I think it’s a game where we showed a great attitude in the second half, and actually played some decent football with some good chances where we could have equalized,” Wicky said.
The loss drops Chicago to 3-2-1 for the preseason. The Fire host the New England Revolution in the MLS regular season opener on Saturday, April 17 at 7:30 p.m. CT (WGN-TV, CFFC Live).
“Everyone’s super anxious to get back on the field, to have an official game under our belt,” Fire defender Jonathan Bornstein said. “We have really high hopes for this Chicago Fire team this season, and I can’t wait to get started on Saturday.”