By the 16th minute of Saturday night’s match between the Chicago Fire and Nashville SC at Nissan Stadium, the Fire had given up the fastest hat trick in MLS history to Hany Mukhtar, and Johan Kappelhof, who was involved in giving up all three goals, had been sent off, almost mercifully, for a red card.
There are poor starts, and then there was this—an absolute disaster in the Music City.
Prior to the match, the Fire announced head coach Raphael Wicky had to make a sudden return to his native Switzerland to deal with a health matter with a close family member.
“Listen, right now at the moment, I think the first thing that’s on my mind and the team’s mind and the whole club and organization is with Rapha and his family, and our thoughts, our prayers are with him,” said assistant coach Frank Klopas, who filled in for Wicky, and will again on Wednesday against D.C. United. “So that’s just the first thing that’s going through my mind right now.”
And then the second thing is, look, I think when I look at this game, you cannot have a start like that,” Klopas continued.” The first 15 minutes, I thought the game was over. We had a poor start, we go down 2-0 and you get a red card. That’s the difficult one.”
Nashville made it 4-0 with a goal by former Fire forward CJ Sapong before halftime. After the half, the Fire pulled one back off a tap in by Ignacio Aliseda. Brian Anunga capped the scoring for Nashville in the 62nd minute, and the game would finish 5-1 in favor of Nashville.
After two straight wins at home, the Fire showed they still haven’t turned the corner to become a true contender.
“The truth is that it was very difficult, but what did we take away from it? We take away that we’re a team who needs to be focused from minute zero until the very end,” midfield Gastón Giménez said. “We can’t start off the game sleepy like we did today because that’s something that we pay for dearly, which we have seen before and we certainly saw tonight.”
The lineup was largely unchanged from that one that rattled off two straight wins, except for Wyatt Omsberg, who filled in for Jonathan Bornstein on the back line.
The Fire are back at home for two more this week—Wednesday against D.C. United, and Saturday against Toronto FC. For Chicago both games are more winnable than Nashville away, but the Fire can’t afford to come out “sleepy” in either one.
Chicago Fire FC: GK Shuttleworth, D Kappelhof ©, D Pineda, D Omsberg, M Sekulić, M Navarro (Bornstein 67’), M Frankowski, M Medrán (Stojanović 67’), M Herbers (Giménez 46’), F Berić (Offor 46’), F Aliseda (Espinoza 82’)
Subs not used: GK G. Slonina, M Casas Jr., M Gutiérrez, F Collier
Nashville SC: GK Willis, D Lovitz, D Anibaba, D Romney, D Maher, D Nealis, M McCarty © (LaGrassa 65’), M Mukhtar (Muyl 65’), M Anunga (Haakenson 74’), F Leal (Danladi 74’), F Sapong (Cádiz 67’)
Subs not used: GK Meredith, D Miller, D Washington, F Rios
Stats Summary: NSH / CHI
Shots: 25 / 14
Shots on Goal: 12 / 4
Passing Accuracy: 88/1% / 82.1%
Saves: 7 / 2
Corners: 7 / 4
Fouls: 14 / 9
Total passes: 481 / 402
Offsides: 2 / 0
Possession: 54.8% / 45.2%
Referee: Lukasz Szpala
Assistant Referees: Ian Anderson, Cameron Blanchard
Fourth Official: Tori Penso
VAR: Kevin Stott, Matthew Nelson