When you generate 31 shots in a soccer game, and put 14 of those on target, you generally expect to win.
The Chicago Fire put up those numbers on Saturday night at Soldier Field, and still managed to lose 2-1 to Toronto FC, dropping three points at home against another team fighting for one of the final playoff spots in the MLS Eastern Conference.
“We definitely created enough opportunities,” Fire assistant coach Frank Klopas said after the match. “It’s just, you know, just lacking now that ball going in the back of the net. You always think if you continue to do this, you know, that we will put it away.”
Those 14 shots on goal were one shy of a Fire club record, and the 31 shots ties a mark set way back in May 2000. Perhaps even more astonishing, 23 of the 31 shots came from inside the 18-yard-box, and, yet, only one found the back of the net.
Toronto went ahead on a Yeferson Soteldo goal 90 seconds into the match that caught the Fire’s defense napping, but the Fire responded by sending wave after wave forward, trying to find an equalizer. Toronto goalkeeper Alex Bono was brilliant on the night, making 13 saves, but several of those were sent straight at him, including three point blank shots by Ignacio Aliseda.
Toronto doubled the lead after a Nick DeLeon goal in the 76th minute, but Álvaro Medrán broke through for the Fire one minute later, scoring his first goal of the season off an assist by second half substitute Fabian Herbers. The Fire would go on to generate a few more scoring opportunities, but could not find another goal.
“You have to always look at the positive, right,” said Fire defender Jonathan Bornstein, who captained the team on the night. “We created a lot of chances. We played well. We had a majority of the game in their half. You know, always got to also work on the things that you don’t do right, so can’t be losing a game where we do get 31 shots, so try and build on that always.”
The match marked Klopas’ third game in charge, as head coach Raphael Wicky is in his native Switzerland dealing with a family issue. Klopas noted that even though Wicky isn’t there, he’s still heavily involved in the process.
“One thing I’ve learned (about) how things have changed is that technology is amazing,” Klopas said. “We learned this through this COVID situation with zoom calls and everything, so look, like any other club, all training sessions are videotaped. They’re all uploaded and he watches every training session and he’s able to watch games. We’re in touch every day, two, three phone calls, so he’s very, very involved.”
The Fire are 2-2-2 over their last six games, but sit in 13th in the MLS Eastern Conference with a 3-9-3 record overall, with a little over half a season left to play. It won’t get easier—the bulk of the remaining games are away from home, starting next Saturday night against the Philadelphia Union.
“You take a look at a performance, you analyze what the game was about, take the positives and you keep working,” Bornstein said. “You keep going forward. I think there were a lot of positive moments and obviously things to work on, as well. But I don’t think that the morale should be very low. I think we’ve just got to keep moving forward and take advantage of the games that are in front of us.”
Chicago Fire FC: GK Shuttleworth, D Omsberg (Herbers 58’), D Pineda, D Bornstein ©, M Sekulić (Stojanović 82’), M Navarro (Espinoza 69’), M Frankowski, M Medrán, M Giménez, F Berić (Offor 58’), F Aliseda
Subs not used: GK G. Slonina, M Gutiérrez, M Casas Jr., M Ivanov, F Collier
Toronto FC: GK Bono, D Singh (M Okello 81’), D Mavinga, D Gonzalez, M Bradley ©, M Delgado, M Pozuelo, M Soteldo, M Endoh (Mullins 46’), M Priso (DeLeon 63), F Dwyer (Altidore 46’)
Subs not used: GK Westberg, D Dunn, D Morrow, F Nelson, F Perruzza
Stats Summary: CHI / TOR
Shots: 31 / 8
Shots on Goal: 14 / 3
Passing Accuracy: 87.0% / 81.3%
Saves: 1 / 13
Corners: 13 / 1
Fouls: 6 / 8
Offsides: 4 / 4
Possession: 56.6% / 43.4%