The Chicago Fire met FC Dallas on a cold and wet spring day on the Lakefront, and the conditions played into what was a frustrating and uneventful game. Both teams will be happy to emerge with a point, as the Fire remain unbeaten and sit in 4th place in the Eastern Conference standings on 9 points.
Starting Lineup (left to right): Slonina; M. Navarro, Pineda, Omsberg, Sekulić (Espinoza 60’); F. Navarro, Giménez; Herbers (Bornstein 60’), Shaqiri (Gutiérrez 19’), Ivanov (Casas 84’); Przybyłko
Gaga Slonina (7) — The 17-year-old goalkeeper didn’t have a lot to do in this game. He had two big moments which left the biggest mark on the game. In the 77th minute, he raced out to sweep up a dangerous through ball, committing early and cleaning up the mess by clearly the ball before an onrushing Jesús Ferreira could reach it. He also made a simple save in the dying minutes of the game against Nanu, whose shot from inside the box was tame and straight at Slonina. Another takeaway is that his distribution can still improve; but that will come with time.
Miguel Ángel Navarro (7.5) — Over the international break, Navarro went head to head with Argentina’s Lionel Messi in World Cup Qualifying. While the Argentine attacking threats of Alan Velasco and Franco Jara aren’t quite Messi, the Venezuelan dealt with them well. He was effective on both sides of the ball and contributed in the attack as he has throughout the year. Navarro made 32 passes and had 75 touches, while on the defensive side, he made 3 interceptions and had 8 recoveries.
Mauricio Pineda (7.5) — Just a few hours before game time, Mauricio Pineda learned that he would have to play center back against FC Dallas, as Raphael Czichos entered health and safety protocols. While he’s played that position extensively in the past, it was the first time he’s started in the back line for Ezra Hendrickson’s team, and he filled in there admirably. His passing was excellent; he completed 59 passes (83% accuracy) including a couple of long balls. It says a lot about Hendrickson’s trust in Pineda that even with Teran back from injury, Pineda got the nod in the center of defense.
Wyatt Omsberg (7.5) — As the season progresses and the sample size gets larger, it's becoming apparent that Wyatt Omsberg’s early-season heroics were no fluke. Frankly, he’s been one of the better center backs in MLS this season and has given Hendrickson a selection headache at that position.
Boris Sekulić (7) — Sekulić got the nod upon his return from international duty with Slovakia, and it was not his best outing this season. He only went 60 minutes, as he was gassed out by the beginning of the season half, having flown back from Europe on Wednesday. Regardless, he contributed to the attack, and his highlight of the game came in the 55th minute when he carried the ball into the box, chopping the ball onto his left foot isolating Marco Farfan before his shot went just wide at the near post.
Gaston Giménez (8) — Giménez was named man of the match and rightfully so. He’s been one of the Fire’s best players this season. The midfield is one of FC Dallas’ biggest strengths, and Gaston was able to mitigate that and make life difficult for the youthful and energetic midfielders on the other side. Both Giménez and Fede Navarro made it difficult for the opposition to connect the midfield to the attack, which is just about all you can ask for.
Fede Navarro (7.5) — Due to the absence of Czichos, Fede Navarro came into the lineup in midfield for this first start of the season. He absolutely justified his inclusion in the XI, as he had a strong performance next to Gaston Giménez in the middle of the park. He was a steady presence and completed 92% of his 62 passes. He was influential in breaking up Dallas attacks, as he made 16 recoveries.
Fabian Herbers (6.5) — Herbers was one of the most in-form players going into the international break. After the week off, he couldn’t continue his good form and was pretty ineffective on the left side. He interchanged with Brian Gutiérrez a little bit after he came in, playing centrally in the 4-2-3-1 on defense.
Xherdan Shaqiri (6) — It's difficult to say too much about Shaqiri’s performance on Saturday, as he only managed to play 19 minutes before he had to come off due to muscle tightness. He played 80 minutes against England and 75 against Kosovo during the break, so it probably wasn’t the best idea to start him, but that was a risk that the Fire were willing to take.
Stanislav Ivanov (6) — Ivanov went 84 minutes but was pretty much anonymous for the Fire. He was another player whose form before the international break couldn’t translate into MLS play. His best chance to score came inside the opening 10 minutes when his glancing header from the top of the box went wide of the goal.
Kacper Przybyłko (5.5) — Przybyłko was able to finally break his scoring duck in the last game against SKC, where he scored a brace, but he was ineffective against Dallas. He did have three attempts: a 13th minutes header where he should have done better, a 30th-minute left-footed shot that went wide at the near post, and a header from around the penalty spot in the last 15 minutes that was blocked. Without Shaqiri behind him for most of the game, there’s only so much he can do, but hopefully, the Polish striker can find his form more consistently.
Brian Gutiérrez (7.5) — Gutiérrez had to come into the game much earlier than anticipated, in the 19th minute, which ended his three-game streak of being subbed on in the 63rd minute. Gutiérrez had some excellent moments, including a great diagonal through ball to Przybyłko which the Pole could not capitalize on. He completed 4 dribbles, more than anyone else. The young attacking midfielder is playing with more confidence this season and will be a great option for the Fire and the U-20 National Team throughout this year.
Jonathan Bornstein (6) — Bornstein couldn’t make much of an impact offensively as Chicago moved to a more defensive shape after he entered. It’s nice to see him keep getting minutes, though.
Jhon Espinoza (6) — After playing with Fire II last week, Espinoza made his first appearance of the season for the first team. He only had 23 touches and wasn’t super impactful compared to Sekulić, who he replaced, but he wasn’t horrible either.
Javi Casas (6) — Its great to see Casas back on the field for the Fire. He only got six minutes, though, and even in that short cameo, it was apparent that he still has a lot of work to do before he’s ready to be a contributor in MLS. It is great to have the Fire II team as a place where he can develop. It is also worth noting that his first action of the game was a yellow card, mere seconds after coming in.
Ezra Hendrickson (6) — This wasn’t the best performance for the manager; if nothing else, he made the wrong decision to start all of the players coming back from international duty, particularly Shaqiri, who had to come off before the 20-minute mark. The other players coming back from their trips overseas also showed signs of fatigue. Other than that, though, it is a point gained in the standings, and this is the type of game which in years past, the Fire might have found a way to lose, so Ezra deserves credit for that.