The win moves Chicago to second place in MLS’s Eastern Conference. With eight points through four games, the Fire are off to their best start since 2009. The team again played a well drilled style—tough and intelligent defensively, with quick ball movement going forward. New head coach Ezra Hendrickson’s stamp is all over this year’s group.
“We did miss some chances again, but overall, defensively and offensively it was our most complete performance,” Hendrickson said after the match.
Kacper Przybylko opened up scoring for the Fire in the 30th minute after Fabian Herbers raced toward goal and found him at the top of the box.
“Amazing feeling. Obviously scoring is great for my own confidence, but I’m just more happy about the team,” Przybylko said. “We’re undefeated, and that’s what I’m most happy about.”
Shortly after halftime, the Fire doubled the lead after Mauricio Pineda won a foul in the box, and Xherdan Shaqiri nailed the ensuing penalty. Six minutes later, Chicago gave up their first goal of the season, when SKC’s Roger Espinoza finished a ball by Felipe Hernandez.
Fire teams over the last few years would almost surely have given up a second goal after conceding a first, but this year’s group is mentally stronger under Hendrickson’s leadership. The Fire regained control of the game, and Przybylko scored in the 82nd minute off a beautiful ball by second half substitute Brian Gutierrez.
“it’s going to be hard to beat us,” Hendrickson said. “Every man out there is fighting for each other. That’s good to see. I’ve been on teams where we didn’t have the best team on paper, but on the pitch you couldn’t beat us because everyone just fought for each other. That’s what I’m seeing with this team.”
Positives: Gastón Giménez was brilliant on the night, dominating midfield in what was surely one of his best performances in a Fire shirt. Shaqiri was everywhere, contributing two secondary assists in addition to his penalty finish. And, Rafael Czichos and Wyatt Omsberg continued to be one of the best centerback partnerships in MLS. When Carlos Terán is fully healthy, it will be nearly impossible to justify pulling Omsberg off the pitch.
One disappointment: Sure, it was due in part to the rain and cold weather, but only 9,352 fans showed up at Soldier Field for the match—a significant drop from the 25,000+ fans who came out to the home opener.
Notes: Forward Jhon Durán was out of the lineup after picking up an injury in training this week.
Chicago is off next weekend for the FIFA international break, and then will look to make it five straight unbeaten when they host host FC Dallas on Saturday, April 2 at 2:30 p.m.