All things considered, if the Chicago Fire had escaped Soldier Field with a 0-0 draw Saturday afternoon against CF Montreal, it would have been mildly disappointing, but not soul crushing.
But after Montreal’s Mason Toye scored his 87th minute winner, and Wyatt Omsberg’s apparent tying goal deep in stoppage time was overturned by VAR, the Fire now head into the international break having lost five of their first seven matches to start the 2021 season.
Yes, there are still 27 games to be played, and there’s still plenty of time to turn around the season, but, flat-out, this is an unacceptable start for a club looking to finally dig itself out of a giant hole of irrelevance.
“It’s very frustrating,” Fire coach Raphael Wicky said after the game. “I think overall we controlled the game well. We were, in my opinion, clearly the better team. In the beginning, we gave up two easy balls where Montreal had two chances. But, after that, I think we controlled it very well and created lots of moments. It just doesn’t enter and then there is this one cross where there are two strikers in the center and the ball just goes over Wyatt (Omsberg). At the end of the day, we have to defend that cross better. It’s frustrating. It’s disappointing going into a three week break with this result, especially when you see that this is a game where we were the better team.”
There have been many games over the last two seasons where Wicky said he felt his side was the better team, or deserved a different result. In some of those, to be fair, he’s probably right.
Look at these stats:
- On Saturday, the Fire created a whopping 15 scoring chances according to Opta—five of those were by Álvaro Medrán alone. Montreal only had six, total, for the entire game. And, yet, the score ends up 1-0 the other way. The Fire can’t finish a single scoring opportunity.
- For all the Fire’s 19 shots, just one came from Robert Berić, and it wasn’t on target. Teams have figured out how to effectively mark him out of the game.
- The Fire have scored a league low four goals all season. Since scoring twice in the first 15 minutes of the match against New England in the season opener, the Fire have scored just two goals in the last 615 minutes of play. Unbelievably, the team’s last goal from open play came in the second match of the season against Atlanta in April.
Why? With the team creating, why are so many chances going over the bar, off the post, straight at the goalkeeper, or dying at a player’s feet? Is it mental?
“I don’t think the team was low on confidence,” Wicky said. “It’s just for some reason we had these big chances and we didn’t score on them. We have these little moments, these half chances where the ball doesn’t go in. Why is that? I cannot give you the answer. At the end of the day, the reality is we need too many chances to score a goal. That’s the reality.”
One of the bright spots for the team has been its defense, which seems to actually be improving. Yes, the marking on Montreal’s lone goal Saturday was poor, but the Fire have conceded just two goals in the last three matches. Still, two of those three have ended up losses.
“We are all disappointed and frustrated,” defender Boris Sekulić said. “It’s pretty, pretty quiet. I think we are all angry. Now we have two, three weeks to analyze things and to try to get in a better mood and to start winning.”
The Fire don’t play again until June 19, when the team visits the Columbus Crew in one of the final matches at MAPFRE Stadium. Maybe three weeks off will be just what the team needs to reset the season. If not, it’s going to be a very long 2021 for the Fire.
OTHER FIRE NEWS: Gastón Giménez (Paraguay) and Francisco Calvo (Costa Rica) are both leaving on international duty. Another Fire player is heading home to Europe during the break to finalize his U.S. Green Card, which will qualify him as a domestic player on the roster.
Chicago Fire FC: GK Shuttleworth, D Sekulić, D Omsberg, D Calvo ©, D Navarro (Bornstein 77’), M Giménez, M Stojanović, M Medrán, F Herbers, F Berić (Offor 77’), F Gutiérrez (Aliseda 59’)
Subs not used: GK G. Slonina, D Espinoza, D Terán, D/M Kappelhof, M Pineda, M Casas Jr.
CF Montréal: GK Diop, D Camacho, D Brault-Guillard, D Waterman, D Bassong (Kizza 95’), D Struna, M Wanyama©, M Hamdi (Piette 60’), M Mihailoviić (Torres 89’), F Johnsen, F Ibrahim (Toye 60’)
Subs not used: GK Pantemis, D Binks, M Sejdic, M Bayhia, M Choniere
Stats Summary: CHI / MTL
Shots: 19 / 6
Shots on Goal: 6 / 3
Passing Accuracy: 72 % / 69.4%
Saves: 2 / 6
Corners: 7 / 2
Fouls: 13 / 19
Total passes: 404 / 395
Offsides: 9 / 0
Possession: 51.5% / 48.5%