We thought that the rain and the probable weather delay that did eventually come right before halftime would be the big story. But It turns out that when a team ends the game with 9 players, that tends to take over the narrative. The Chicago Fire lost 2-1 to the New York Red Bulls after going down to 9 players and then giving up a penalty in the 85th minute.
Make no mistake, it was a legitimate penalty. Miguel Navarro misses a tackle and trips Patryk Klimala in the box. The problem is that based on how we thought the game was being officiated, Klimala should have been sent off 8 minutes before the penalty was awarded because Jhon Duran had already been sent off on an incredibly soft call. A small shove fighting for a 50/50 ball was enough for referee Jon Freemon to give him his second yellow and send him packing early. Rafael Czichos was sent off three minutes later for a late challenge and that was that. The Fire were down to nine players and were all but guaranteed to lose.
That Klimala didn’t get sent off wasn’t even the first bad refereeing decision that was made tonight. Ashley Fletcher committed a foul in the midfield and Freemon started reaching into his pocket to book the player who committed the foul. He realized it was Fletcher, removed his hand from his pocket, and just issued a final warning. Fletcher would be subbed off a few minutes later.
It wasn’t all bad for the Fire, though. Before the 87-minute weather delay, they were playing well and dealing with the Red Bull press by bypassing the midfield and playing over the top. The Fire got off to a quick start, tallying their first shot on goal courtesy of Duran inside the first minute, The Red Bulls did get a few good ones in, creating some scoring chances of their own, but the Fire did a good job getting in front of shots, and the ones that did get through were calmly and maturely handled by Gaga Slonina.
The Fire finally broke through their MLS scoring drought seventeen minutes in. A Boris Sekulic shot was walloped from 25 yards into the chicken winged arm of a turning Ashley Fletcher, which is how he acquired his first yellow. Xherdan Shaqiri put the penalty right down Main Street past a diving Carlos Coronel and the Fire had their first scored goal in the last 5 league games.
The Red Bulls thought they had one back, as right-back Thomas Edwards snuck in front of Wyatt Omsberg to put the ball in the back of the net off of a set-piece, but after a VAR review, Aaron Long was judged to be offside and interfering with the play, as he pulled Thomas’s mark Chinonso Offor away from Edwards. He also made a play at the ball, so the goal was waved off, and that was the last referee decision that went the Fire’s way.
The Fire have now not won a game since March, and haven’t scored from the run of play since that win vs Kansas City. It’s been the same story in all the games since. The defense keeps them in the game, but the lack of offensive output lets the team down. The good news is that they do have a reinforcement coming in Jairo Torres, who did score tonight in his last game with Atlas in Liga MX. Plus, there are rumors that the Fire aren’t going to wait to fill the last two roster spots. Things can and probably will get better, but for now it feels like the club has taken a step backward.
The Fire next play at Atlanta United May 7th at 5 pm CT.