With 20 goals scored, the Chicago Fire sit 12th out of 14 teams in that category in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference. Even with the recent uptick in scoring, that feels about right. The team scored a dismal four goals through the first nine games of the season. The Fire have scored 16 goals in the nine games since then—a much better output—but it’s going to take a lot more to overcome such a terrible start.
Like usual—and this dates back to the Veljko Paunovic days—the Fire are underperforming their Expected Goals (xG) as a team. At 24.6 according to FBRef, the Fire are eighth in xG in the East. The 5-1 loss in Nashville was the only time the Fire have been blown out this season, meaning four or five more goals, spread across some of the other games, would have them much closer to a playoff position. You gotta finish your chances.
So who is underperforming their xG? If you’ve watched the Fire this season, this isn’t even a question. DP striker Robert Berić has just two goals this season, with an xG of 5.7, meaning he’s underperforming his xG by an astounding 3.7 goals through 18 games this season.
Przemyslaw Frankowski, who recently left the Fire to sign with RC Lens, has the second worst difference between goals and xG at -1.9. Also moderately struggling: Chinonso Offor (1 G, 2.0 xG), Francisco Calvo (0 G, 1.2 xG), and Fabian Herbers (0G, 1.2 xG)—although with Calvo and Herbers, goal scoring isn’t really their primary responsibility.
Miguel Navarro hasn’t technically scored in 2021, and has an xG of 0.3. But, he’s largely responsible for creating the two own goals that have benefitted the Fire this season, so he actually looks pretty effective in the attack.
Who is outperforming their xG? This one’s also pretty apparent. With five goals scored and an xG of 3.0, Luka Stojanović appears to be the team’s most efficient finisher. Boris Sekulić has also done well (2 G, 0.8 xG), as have Ignacio Aliseda (3 G, 2.5 xG), and Mauricio Pineda (1 G, 0.1 xG).
Sometimes it feels like xG stats are misleading, but in the case of the Chicago Fire this season, this feels pretty spot on. Eleven of the remaining 16 games are away from home, where the Fire have yet to win in the Raphael Wicky era. But, if the final stretch looks at least somewhat more like the most recent nine games than the first nine games, there might still be a glimmer of hope. FiveThirtyEight now gives the Fire a seven percent chance to make the playoffs, which is terrible, but that’s actually a slight uptick from recent weeks.
But, nothing happens if the Fire can’t find the back of the net.