The nine-man Chicago Fire saw a first-half lead evaporate as they fell to the New York Red Bulls 2-1 at Soldier Field on Saturday. The match was interrupted by a 90-minute weather delay, which disrupted the flow of the game and made the field conditions borderline unplayable in the second half. Regardless, it was the Fire’s to lose, and Red Bull came back with goals from Patryk Klimala, earning them their fifth consecutive win on the road.
Starting Lineup (left to right): Slonina; M. Navarro, Czichos, Omsberg, Sekulić; Giménez (Bornstein 66’), Pineda; Gutiérrez (Teran 90’), Shaqiri, Offor (Espinoza 79’); Duran
Gaga Slonina (5.5) — Gaga Slonina had a tough outing in challenging conditions. He made two simple saves, but other than that, there are not many positive things to say. His passing still needs improvement, which wasn’t helped by the playing surface in the second half. He also could have prevented the first goal and was fooled by the stutter-step on the second goal. Regardless, he’s still only 17, and there’s plenty of time for his weaknesses to be addressed.
Miguel Ángel Navarro (5) — Navarro put in one of his worst performances of this season so far. He didn’t get as involved in the attack as he usually would, in part due to the field. The stats are not very flattering: 1/5 ground duels won, 0 tackles, only 14 passes completed... and one penalty conceded, New York’s game-winning goal.
Rafael Czichos (6) — Czichos did not have a terrible performance before he was sent off after receiving a second yellow card in the 83rd minute. His passing was good, and he won 5/6 aerial duels. The Fire were already down to 10 men when the referee went to his back pocket, and that decisive moment sent the Fire into survival mode.
Wyatt Omsberg (6) — Like Czichos, Omsberg did not put in a terrible performance for the most part. However, he was partially responsible for the first Red Bulls goal as he failed to shut down Klimala inside the 18-yard-box, which gave the striker a clear look at the goal. He was good in the air, and his passing was about what you would expect.
Boris Sekulić (6.5) — Sekulić was one of the better Fire players on the night. He was good on both sides of the ball, being steady defensively and impactful going forward, at least in the first half. His most significant moment came in the 15th minute when his powerful shot struck the hand of Ashley Fletcher, which earned a penalty for the Fire.
Gastón Giménez (7) — Gaston had an influential performance for the Fire, and when he came off through injury in the 66th minute, the game shifted in the Red Bulls’ favor. The DP has stepped up his game this season and finally established himself in MLS as a crucial player for this team. His injury status is yet to be known, but the Fire will be hoping he can return alongside Fede Navarro next week in Atlanta.
Mauricio Pineda (6) — Pineda’s performance was nothing to write home about, but it wasn’t terrible either. Pineda has looked consistently solid this season, playing next to Gastón Giménez in the double pivot, and his passing was mostly pretty good against New York. In the final moments, he had a chance to try to find an equalizer, but his header from inside the box was blocked.
Brian Gutiérrez (7) — Even as the Fire’s performances have been moving negatively over the last couple of weeks, Gutiérrez has stepped up and put in some good shifts. Last night, he was the Fire’s best attacker, and if it weren’t for the water-soaked field, he likely would have scored. He has looked impressive on the ball and is no longer afraid to take on defenders 1v1. His long-distance shot in the 55th minute went just wide following a mazy run in which he isolated multiple Red Bull players. It is worth noting that Guti moved to an unfamiliar defensive midfield position in the second half, filling into Giménez, where he was surprisingly solid defensively, but the change limited how much he could impact the attack.
Xherdan Shaqiri (6.5) — Shaqiri scored the Fire’s only goal of the game from the penalty spot in the first half. But for a player of his caliber, the expectations need to be much higher. Aside from the penalty, he barely got involved in the game and ultimately only had 39 touches despite playing centrally as a 10.
Chinonso Offor (5) — Offor made his first start of the season off the back of a two-goal performance last week for Fire II, and he had an indifferent game. Offor lost 11 ground duels, more than any other player, and only won 3. The only area of the game where he looks capable of competing is in the air, as from a technical standpoint, he isn’t good enough right now to be impactful at the MLS level.
Jhon Duran (5.5) — In his five previous MLS appearances, which totaled to 58 minutes of soccer, Duran has picked up three yellow cards. Thus, it should be no surprise that when he made his first start, he received two yellows and was sent off. Both fouls were silly and unnecessary, too. He had a couple of looks at goal and was the Fire’s most dangerous player in front of goal, but if he can’t get his disciplinary issues sorted, there’s no way he will be able to ever be a consistent contributor.
Jonathan Bornstein (5) — Bornstein made 2 touches in half of hour of play; it’s hard to give a rating from such a small sample size since he hardly saw any of the ball, but he wasn’t impactful. The arrival of Jairo Torres today should lessen the dependence on the 37-year-old full-back to be an option on the wing.
Jhon Espinoza (6) — Espinoza also hardly made an impact, but like Bornstein, it’s difficult to knock him too much since he isn’t a natural winger. He only had 5 touches, but he produced one of the Fire’s best chances when his cross found Mauricio Pineda deep into stoppage time.
Carlos Terán (NR) — Teran entered as damage control in the 92nd minute. It was his first first-team appearance of the season.
Ezra Hendrickson (5) — Ezra’s ability to coach through adversity is being tested. After a dream start to the season, he now needs to prevent the Fire’s season from spiraling out of control following three defeats on the bounce. Offensively, the team has been tame, and Ezra’s substitutions have not been able to change games (the three substitutes tonight had a combined 9 touches over a combined 51 minutes). In part, it's due to roster depth, but the team is just not getting the results that they should be, some key players are struggling to play at their best, and sometimes they seem to give up late in games. A bad result in Atlanta next Saturday would make things even worse.