The Fire Don’t Have Difference Makers
I love Luka Stojanovic. Out of all of Georg Heitz's first attempts at making signings, he’s not only been the best player to come out of them, he’s been their best player, period. Despite some shaky performances early on in his recovery from major knee surgery, he’s become an increasingly productive part of an improving Chicago Fire offense. However, he’s not a true difference-maker. If he was, he’d be in a top 5 league making 8 figures a season and playing in the Champions League quarterfinals. And maybe he’ll get there one day. But for the moment, the Fire do not have that guy who can grab the game by the scruff of their neck and win it by themselves.
Georg Heitz’s biggest failure as GM so far has been his inability or unwillingness to identify and recruit big-name players. Instead of a striker with a real goalscoring record and ability to adjust to defensive schemes, we got a one-note striker who plays off-the-shoulder with poor timing; who gets found out after one year and can never score again. Just one look at his goals scored per year since he arrived in France would tell you that Robert Beric was questionable, and yet he was sold to the fanbase as an adequate replacement for the 2017 MLS golden boot winner who was still able to score double-digit goals after largely being scouted out.
What it boils down to is this: The 2021 Chicago Fire are missing a player or two who can take over a game and get 3 points out of a performance when the final ball isn’t there but everything else is. And it is a must for the offseason transfer window.
Two Steps Forward One Step Back
When the ball was stolen off Mauricio Pineda’s foot on what would turn out to be Orlando’s only goal of the game, I sighed internally. Either no one yelled at him that he was about to get his pocket picked or no one flashed to the ball to help avoid the situation or both. Regardless of why it happened, it was a great reminder that these players are still bound by the poor communication that comes with Jonathan Bornstein not being on the field.
The upside of this is that when Bornstein does play, he makes his defense better just because of his experience, and the unit becomes relatively stingy. The downside is that Jonathan Bornstein is 36 and with such a compact schedule, he can’t physically play every match. And from here, we can see the holes in the roster more clearly beyond the lack of goals.
The club has a lot of talented players on defense as well as offense, Carlos Teran especially has shown massive improvement since his debut and looks like he could develop into a very good if not a great central defender. But they don't have one with leadership skills who can play every day. One of the other benefits of having impact players (to tie my two points together) is that they’re often good leaders who can help organize and keep things together as well as score goals, and that leadership is sorely missing from the Fire. That’s also something the Fire brain trust is going to have to go after this offseason, and if they don’t find it, It’s going to be more of the same next season.