On a night where the cold, blustery weather in Washington, D.C. made it seem like the Chicago Fire were destined for a third straight 0-0 draw, the new look Fire scrapped their way to a 2-0 win over D.C. United at Audi Field. A first half goal by Stanislav Ivanov and a late goal by second half substitute Jonathan Bornstein iced the win, keeping the Fire undefeated in 2022.
“One of the things we talked to them about before the game started was that there’s some games where the elements are such that you have to roll up your sleeves and just battle,” head coach Ezra Hendrickson said after the match. “We may not be able to get the opportunity to play the football that we like to play, you know, keeping the ball on the ground, nice passing, possession-type of football because of the wind and the cold, but if we have to battle, we have to battle. I thought the guys battled from the first whistle until the last.”
The Fire become the 8th team in MLS history to notch shutouts in each of its first three games of the season, and 17-year-old goalkeeping phenom Gabriel Slonina is one of just six goalkeepers in history to start an MLS season with three consecutive clean sheets. Slonina made four saves on the night, and shook off a rolled ankle to keep the Fire defense’s perfect season going strong.
Herbers ➡️ Shaqiri ➡️ Ivanov@ChicagoFire's first of the season. pic.twitter.com/oEkFaUVCBu— Major League Soccer (@MLS) March 13, 2022
Chicago opened the scoring in the 32nd minute after Xherdan Shaqiri slipped a through ball to a streaking Stanislav Ivanov, who chipped the orange high visibility ball over D.C.’s Bill Hamid into the back of the net.
The lead would remain 1-0 until the 80th minute, when Jonathan Bornstein buried a headed on ball from Gastón Giménez to double the Fire’s lead. The goal capped off a beautiful, 10 pass sequence, where the Fire moved the ball all over the field before scoring. Giménez was again heavily criticized on Twitter after he lost a ball early in the match and showed no effort to get it back, but he was, for the most part, strong on the night. Fellow designated player Shaqiri was everywhere, battling for the ball, dribbling out of tight spaces time after time, and playing smart passes to his teammates. But Chicago’s most important player was again probably Rafael Czichos. The German has injected calm and discipline into the Fire’s back line, and he’s been a massive part in all three of the Fire’s shutouts this season.
“He’s a very motivating guy,” Bornstein said of Czichos. “He’s very quiet, like away from the pitch, but once you get him on there, he has got this fight in him, and I really, really like that. I feed off of that, and you know, we’ve had conversations, him and I, about what this team really needs to succeed, and we’re always on the same page about most of that stuff.”
This passage of play from @ChicagoFire...— Major League Soccer (@MLS) March 13, 2022
What a move & what a finish from @JonnyBornstein to cap it off! pic.twitter.com/dJ0iYIhwYD
Chicago now sits fifth in the Eastern Conference with five points, just two points out of first place. The Fire will look to make it four games unbeaten when they host Sporting Kansas City next Saturday at Soldier Field (5 p.m CT, WGN-TV, CF97 Live).