After a first half that saw the Chicago Fire dominate but fail to finish several key chances, goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina and new team captain Rafael Czichos were able to hold off Inter Miami and help the Fire grab an important point on the road in a 0-0 game Saturday night at DRV PNK Stadium.
Czichos, who was given the armband this week by new head coach Ezra Hendrickson, said the result was frustrating.
“I think we played a really good first half,” Czichos said after the match. “And then we lost, a little bit, our shape in the second half. It was too wild, too chaotic. We should have made at least one goal in the first half, and then the second half would have been much easier for us.”
Operating in a central attacking midfield role, new star designated player Xherdan Shaqiri had a strong debut for the Fire. He played all 90 minutes, and led the team in key passes, with five. Shaqiri ripped a blistering shot to Miami’s upper 90 late in the first half that was saved by Clement Diop, and slipped a beautiful through ball to Stanislav Ivanov that the Bulgarian failed to finish. But, Miami seemed content to foul Shaqiri whenever possible, dumping him to the ground several times throughout the match.
“That’s something that the referee needs to control,” Hendrickson said. “I could be on the sideline and scream all I want, but I’m not the guy with the whistle in the middle of the pitch. I think some of it was unnecessary tonight. Some of it was late. Some was called, some was not. That’s something that the refs are gonna have to look for, because that’s something that teams are gonna use to slow us down.”
Slonina made the biggest of his four saves late in the match to hold onto the clean sheet, but after the match his thoughts were focused on the people of Ukraine suffering through the Russian invasion. Slonina, who has family in nearby Poland, wore a shirt emblazoned with “NO WAR IN UKRAINE” to the post-match news conference.
“The game is important, but there’s other things that happen in outside life that are above the game,” Slonina said. “I think it’s about putting the most awareness that we can that families and victims going through this hard time right now stay safe, and we need to support them as much as possible.”
“Gaga is a 17-year-old, but he’s got the mind of a 30-year-old,” Hendrickson said of his teenage goalkeeper. “He’s a very conscious individual. I expect stuff like that from him.”
The Fire are back at Soldier Field next Saturday night for the 2022 home opener against Orlando City (5 p.m. CT, WGN-TV and CF97 Live).
Chicago Fire FC: GK Slonina, D Sekulić, D Czichos ©, D Omsberg, D M. Navarro, M Gimenez (F. Navarro 70’), M Pineda, M Herbers (Durán 80’), M Shaqiri, M Ivanov (Gutiérrez 80’), F Przybyłko
Subs not used: GK Richey, D Burks, D Bornstein, D Espinoza, M Casas Jr., F Offor
Inter Miami CF: GK Diop, D Yedlin, D McVey, D Mota, D Campana (F Lassiter 66’), D Quinteros, D Lowe, D Allen (Shea 78’), M Adams (Taylor 66’), M Silva ©, F Higuaín
Subs not used: GK Callender, D Mabika, M Rodríguez, M Acosta
Stats Summary: IMCF / CHI
Shots: 17 / 16
Shots on Goal: 3 / 3
Passing Accuracy: 75.1% / 82.4%
Saves: 3 / 4
Corners: 5 / 4
Fouls: 20 / 8
Offsides: 2 / 3
Possession: 40.8% / 59.2%
Referee: Lukasz Szpala
Assistant Referees: Brian Dunn, Charles Morgante
Fourth Official: Elvis Osmanovic
VAR: Edvin Jurisevic, Kevin Klinger