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Chicago Fire 3, Orlando City 1: What We Learned

MLS: Orlando City SC at Chicago Fire Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Fire are technically on a hot streak. They’ve won two in a row and haven’t lost in three games. More impressive is that they’ve found their goal-scoring shoes, scoring nine in the same amount of time. Last Wednesday against Orlando was the first time this season the Fire beat a good soccer team. So, After a brief mini-vacation, here’s what we learned from it.

They got Knocked Down, and Then Got Up Again

Despite first giving up the first goal of the game to Orlando, they had the mental strength to keep playing and grab an equalizer before the half. That’s new. Because while they’ve never given up after going down in past games, per se, they’ve always been unable to come back from falling behind for years now. In fact, they hadn't come from behind to win a game since 2019— before last Wednesday.

This is very much a turning point for a roster that’s been growing in confidence since the 3-3 draw with Philadelphia. They don’t feel bad for themselves when things are going bad and don’t hang their heads when things are going against them. They instead dig in their heels and keep forging ahead, creating chances.

The biggest difference between then and now is that they’re finishing their chances. Boris Sekulic’s goal from an almost impossible angle is proof that everything seems to be going right for the club at the moment. My one worry is that this 10-day break will stop any momentum they have going, and they’ll end up taking a step back against Nashville.

The Defense Is Better

The numbers won’t exactly back up this assertation from Wednesday. Orlando out possessed, outshot, and out passed the Fire. However, this was always going to be the case with Orlando, despite Nani and Mueller starting the game on the bench. While they broke midway through the first half, the Fire defense still played a solid organized game where they were able to successfully transition from defense to offense when they won the ball. If I’m the Fire’s coaching staff, this is the defense I run with for the rest of the season, including the eventual benching of Francisco Calvo. The fact of the matter is, the Fire are a better team with him off the field than they are with him on it, and even with this small sample size, I expect that to continue to be the case going forward.

That being said, Miguel Navarro needs to play better. The goal the Fire did give up was directly caused by him not finishing his tackle at midfield. He should have either finished his tackle by winning the ball after getting a foot to it, or fouled to break up the play. He also finds himself too far forward at times, getting caught attacking when he should be playing a bit more conservatively.

Fortunately, all of this is something getting more experience can fix, and as he gets more playing time, these mistakes should start going away. It’s just painful to see it happening at this point in time, especially while the club is trying to dig itself out of the hole they dug themselves in the first two months of the season.

I like what I’m seeing right now, and if they keep improving, the Fire could be one of the better teams by season’s end.

Goals, Jerry, Goals

It looked like it was going to be another horrid night for the Fire’s star signing of the 2020 season. Robert Beric was offside almost as often as he was on, and he ruined more than a few attacks because of it. However, in the 72nd minute, he managed to stay onside long enough for an Alvaro Medran pass to slide on to his foot, and from there into the back of the net to put the Fire ahead to the relief of literally everyone watching not rooting for Orlando.

Just before, he missed a point-blank shot and in previous games that would have been it for him. But maybe it was because the club had scored a bunch over the past few games, this time was different. He made a smart run to split the area between the left-center back and the left-back who were not on the same line. It was a clever run from him and maybe a sign that he’s out of his head and hopefully, more goals are in his future.

Chinonso Offor, meanwhile, scored his first goal in MLS on a well-executed 2 on 1 counter with Przemyslaw Frankowski against a tired Orlando City in the 6th minute of Fergie time. Offor won the ball at the top of the box and made an excellent turn to start the break, and Frankowski’s pass back was suburb. It was the perfect way to take advantage of a tired Orlando squad at the end of the game, and it’s the kind of thing good teams do to kill off games. More of that, please.