Taking the under seems to be a pretty safe bet in Chicago Fire games this season.
Saturday night the Fire played the LA Galaxy to a scoreless draw at Soldier Field—the fourth such 0-0 scoreline through seven games this season. A season high 30,282 fans packed the stadium—many of whom were there to see Mexican superstar Chicharito, who was kept off the board by the Fire’s stifling defense, which has allowed just two goals in 2022.
Xherdan Shaqiri missed the match, still dealing with tightness in his left calf. Fire head coach Ezra Hendrickson said he made the call to sit Shaqiri on Friday, after he struggled during a solo training session. He remains day-to-day heading into this week’s matchups: Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup clash with Union Omaha at Soldier Field, and Saturday’s nationally televised match at Minnesota United. Gastón Giménez stepped into Shaqiri’s No. 10 role, recording one of his best performances yet for the Fire.
Wyatt Omsberg and Rafael Czichos were back together as a centerback pairing, and were again stellar.
“I think that’s a good team, a lot of attacking players that are dangerous,” Omsberg said after the match. “We knew we had to be on our ‘A game’ tonight. We really limited their chances. A couple here and there, but I felt like we were pretty solid as a unit.”
Omsberg has played every minute for the Fire this season, and has been so strong he’s made it impossible for Hendrickson to even consider replacing him in the XI. If he continues at this level, Omsberg should absolutely be in the running for an MLS All-Star appearance, and potentially even a postseason award. He’s been that good.
Gaga’s Run Continues
Gaga Slonina recorded his ninth shutout in his first 17 career games, an absolutely ridiculous number for a player who’s still only 17 years old. Although he didn’t technically have to make a save Saturday night, Slonina ran off his line to stifle an excellent chance by Douglas Costa in the 47th minute.
As good as the Fire were defensively, the were just as poor on the other side of the ball. The team’s best chance came in the 63rd minute, when Giménez slipped a beautiful ball through to Kacper Przybylko, who failed to convert when LA’s Jonathan Bond came charging out of goal to break up the play. It means Przybylko has been kept off the score sheet in six of his first seven matches for the Fire. It’s not pretty, but Hendrickson wants Przybylko to remember the advice Ted Lasso gives to his players—Be a Goldfish.
“One of the profiles that we like from strikers is their ability to forget things really quickly, especially when they don’t go their way,” Hendrickson said of his Polish striker. “So he’s got to be able to leave that alone and move on to the next play and move on to the next game and stay confident.”
That said, you have to wonder how close Hendrickson is to giving Jhon Durán a shot as the starting No. 9.
Wingers Badly Needed
It’s not just Przybylko who’s struggling. The Fire’s wingers have produced two goals all season—one from Stanislav Ivanov, and one from Jonathan Bornstein, who again started in an advanced role Saturday night. Bornstein worked hard, winning three of four aerial duels and two of three ground duels, but provided zero shots or chances created. Fellow fullbacks Jhon Espinoza and Andre Reynolds II also came on as midfielders in the match, making it abundantly clear the Fire will need to call upon Mexican star signing Jairo Torres as soon as he arrives in May, and should be looking to sign wingers with the club’s two open roster spots—a U-22 initiative slot and a TAM slot.
“Jhon Espinoza comes in as a right (wing). Normally he has to play right (back). Then AJ comes in, I don’t think he’s a left wing,” a critical Czichos said after the match. “So it’s difficult for us but I think we keep fighting every game and we create chances. We had a big big chance, or Kacper had a big chance. If we make it we’re going to win 1-0, but we didn’t unfortunately. So we have to improve our game.”
Chicago will have the chance to kickstart the attack Tuesday night against USL League One side Union Omaha, when the Fire’s quest to win a fifth U.S. Open Cup championship begins.
Chicago Fire FC: GK Slonina, D Sekulić, D Czichos ©, D Omsberg, D M. Navarro, M F. Navarro, M Pineda, M Ivanov (Reynolds II, 72’), M Giménez, M Bornstein © (Espinoza, 61’), F Przybyłko (Durán, 77)
Subs not used: GK Richey, D Burks, D Terán, M Casas Jr., F Offor, F Bezerra
LA Galaxy: GK Bond, D Araujo (Kljestan, 88’), D Williams, D Coulibaly, D Leerdam, D Edwards, M Raveloson, M Delgado, F Costa (Cabral, 72’), F Grandsir (Alvarez, 46’), F Hernandez ©
Subs not used: GK Klinsmann, D Zavaleta, D DePuy, M Aguirre, M Perez, F Joveljic
Stats Summary: CHI / LA
Shots: 9 / 7
Shots on Goal: 0 / 0
Passing Accuracy: 74.3% / 82%
Saves: 0 / 0
Corners: 6 / 4
Fouls: 10 / 12
Offsides: 0 / 2
Possession: 44.4% / 55.6%