The Chicago Fire went into Saturday’s contest against the New York Red Bulls with a great chance to finally win a road match in the Raphael Wicky era. After 90 minutes of flat, uninspired soccer at Red Bull Arena, it’s become clear the Fire, the way they’re playing now, won’t be able to compete for much of anything in 2021, except perhaps a wooden spoon. The Fire dropped their second straight game of the season, and have picked up just one point out of a possible nine to start the year.
“At the end of the day, it’s just not good enough,” Wicky said after the match. “It’s just not good enough to make these mistakes every single game, and we have to fix that.”
For the Fire, it’s been the same complaints for several seasons now. They create chances, but they struggle to finish. They defend well, then they miscommunicate or switch off, and give up goals, sometimes from nothing. When they do manage to get a lead, they blow it.
Saturday’s match was much of the same. Luka Stojanovic had a good look in the 23rd minute, but it was saved by Red Bulls goalkeeper Carlos Coronel. Francisco Calvo almost gave the Fire the lead in the 34th minute with a bicycle kick from 25 yards out, but could not convert. The two teams went into halftime tied 0-0.
RBNY scored quickly in the second half, when Fabio found Cristian Casseres Jr. open in the box. They would double that lead in the 64th minute, when Caden Clark ran onto a Fabio header to make it 2-0. The win is the Red Bulls’ first of the season, and the first under new head coach Gerhard Struber.
“Again out of nothing, you make a big mistake and it costs us the game,” Wicky said. “That’s the frustrating thing, and you’ve got to change that as quick as possible.”
“We are shooting ourselves in the foot,” goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth added. “Those things can’t continue if we want to win games, especially win games on the road. We recognize it. We talk about it. We go over the video. We know that there are things we need to improve… a lot of these times, we’re the ones keeping the ball and making the play, and then a silly moment and we concede.”
The game saw Wicky start Mauricio Pineda as a defensive midfielder for the first time in 2021, pushing Alvaro Medran to the left wing in place of Chinonso Offor. Brian Gutierrez and Elliot Collier also made their first appearances of 2021 as second half substitutes.
Chicago now heads into a week four matchup with the Philadelphia Union desperately needing a victory. Anything less, and it might be time for a giant shake up.
Chicago Fire FC: GK Shuttleworth, D Sekulić, D Kappelhof, D Calvo ©, D Bornstein (D Espinoza 69’), M Medrán (M Offor 69’), M Giménez, M Frankowski (M Gutiérrez 69’), M Stojanović (M Collier 61’), M Pineda, F Berić
Subs not used: GK Brady, D Omsberg, D Terán, D Reynolds II, M Casas Jr., M Monis
New York Red Bulls: GK Carlos, D Long, D Duncan, D Nealis, D Gutman, M Amaya (M Yearwood 55’), M Clark (M Fernandez 81’), M Casseres Jr., M Davis ©, F Fabio (F White 68’), F Barlow (F Royer 55’)
Subs not used: GK Meara, D Tarek, D Edwards, D Tolkin, F Harper