The Chicago Fire’s five-game losing streak came to an end on Wednesday against the New York Red Bulls, but it certainly felt like two points were left on the table in a 3-3 draw. The visiting Fire battled from behind to take the lead twice against Red Bull. Goals from Chris Mueller, Wyatt Omsberg, and Xherdan Shaqiri propelled the Fire to a 3-2 lead entering stoppage time, but Patryk Klimala capitalized on another Gaga Slonina mistake to strike another last-gasp dagger into the Fire’s game.
Starting Lineup (left to right): Slonina; M. Navarro, Omsberg, Terán (Giménez 45’), Espinoza (Sekulić 45’); F. Navarro, Pineda; Gutiérrez (Torres 65’), Shaqiri, Mueller (Herbers 80’); Durán (Pryzbyłko 71’)
Gaga Slonina (3) — Unfortunately, there isn’t really a way to sugarcoat it; Gaga Slonina has been in terrible form over the last couple of games and was the biggest reason that the Fire didn’t pick up the three points tonight. The goalkeeper, who just turned eighteen this past Sunday, made two huge mistakes. The first was when he failed to make an extremely simple save on Cam Harper, letting the ball slide right through his fingers for New York’s second-half equalizer. The second came in the 91st minute, where his poor positioning and decision-making opened the door for Omir Fernández to lay the ball off to Patryk Klimala; New York’s third goal. As has been preached throughout the year, though, we have to be patient with such a young goalkeeper. Inconsistency is to be expected, and Gaga still has the trust of Ezra Hendrickson, who affirmed that he is still the undisputed #1.
Miguel Ángel Navarro (6.5) — Navarro returned from his one-game yellow card accumulation suspension and came right back into the eleven. He had another solid performance, even if he wasn’t that involved in the final third and wasn’t the busiest player on defense.
Wyatt Omsberg (7.5) — Wyatt Omsberg has been the surprise revelation of this season, and he had another great game today, even if the Fire shipped three goals. The Scarborough native became only the second player from Maine to score in MLS with his go-ahead goal today, where he pounced on Jhon Durán’s header. From a defensive standpoint, he did only win 2/5 ground duels, but all things considered, he had a solid game, away from his preferred right side of the center-back pairing.
Carlos Terán (4) — The Colombian center-back continues to be a letdown for the Fire. He set the tempo for a disappointing performance with a yellow card hardly 45 seconds into the game. He proceeded to constantly flirt with a second yellow for the rest of the half before being pulled at halftime. He won 0 ground duels, 0 tackles, and only completed 50% of his passes.
Jhon Espinoza (4) — Simliarly to Terán, Espinoza also had a rough outing, which also saw him yanked after 45 minutes. He came into the lineup for Boris Sekulić, who was rested after playing many games lately and was not good enough to keep that spot for another week. He conceded the penalty for New York’s first goal and was ineffective even setting aside that moment.
Fede Navarro (7) — Navarro continues to establish himself as a steady defensive presence in the middle of the field and showed again tonight that he is a valuable part of this team. Winning 13/17 ground duels and making 5 tackles, he had another successful outing.
Mauricio Pineda (6.5) — Pineda had the unenviable task of switching positions mid-game, from central midfield to central defense. He did just fine, and put in a good shift on and off the ball, but had one tough moment when he lost his mark on Klimala on Red Bull’s equalizer.
Brian Gutiérrez (7.5) — The young midfielder, who only turns 19 next month, had one of his best performances in a Fire shirt and continues to emerge as one of the top young talents in this team. His confidence in the final third has improved, and that resulted in a very nice assist on Chris Mueller’s goal. He was substituted for Jairo Torres mid-way through the second half; while it will be difficult for him to keep his spot in the lineup with the arrival of the Mexican YDP, he showed that he is absolutely good enough to start and be relied upon for this offense which is starting to click.
Xherdan Shaqiri (8) — Today, for the first time, the Fire finally got a glimpse of what Xherdan Shaqiri can do and how he can impact a game. He made things happen out of nothing on numerous occasions and scored what seemed to be the winning goal in the 89th minute. Throughout the year, Shaqiri’s biggest problem has been the lack of end product, and his goal tonight was his first from open play. Aside from the goal, he had a few other good looks at the target and magic moments on the ball; he also set up Omsberg’s goal, taking the corner which started the play.
Chris Mueller (8) — Chris Mueller has brought what the Fire have been lacking in the final third. This was a great offensive performance – the Men in Red put the ball in the back of the net three times – and Mueller was a huge contributor. He scored his first Fire goal, showing his excellent ability in tight space to create the opportunity near the end of the first half, and brought great energy to the attack which has been slowed down this season by the forced use of full-backs in that position.
Jhon Durán (7) — After a rocky start, Durán may be finally turning the corner for the Chicago Fire. He continued his good form, adding to last week’s goal with an assist today for Wyatt Omsberg. He also had two shots on target and drew numerous fouls. For now, he is the de-facto starter, as he should be.
Gastón Giménez (7) — Giménez started from the bench, as he is recovering from injury. He had a good 45 minutes; apart from being somewhat slow to react on the chance which turned out to be New York’s 91st-minute equalizer, he didn’t really put a foot wrong and completed 100% of his passes.
Boris Sekulić (6) — Sekulić was certainly an upgrade on Espinoza, and he is still expected to come right back into the lineup on Sunday. However, he did not have a perfect game against Red Bulls and certainly could have done better in one-on-one positions.
Jairo Torres (7) — While he wasn’t super involved throughout his 25-minute appearance, Torres was involved in the build-up for Shaqiri’s goal, and made a positive impact in the game. Like Mueller, he injected energy into the attack. He is still not 100% after recovering from a minor injury, but once he is able, he is expected to slide right into the starting eleven on the wing.
Kacper Przybyłko (7) — The Pole returned from injury with a cameo appearance for the last twenty minutes. He left his mark on the game, winning a free-kick at the end of the box (which Shaqiri narrowly missed) and being involved in the goal. Hopefully, he too can turn the corner and refind his form, because when that happens, the Fire will have a very good and very dangerous center forward at their disposal.
Fabian Herbers (6.5) — Herbers got ten minutes at the end, and it was enough time for him to get involved with 12 touches. He was credited with the assist on Shaqiri’s goal. He will prove to be a valuable offensive weapon off the bench this season.
Ezra Hendrickson (6.5) — Ezra definitely pushed the right buttons, for the most part. The decision to rest Sekulić may have not paid off, but the absence of Rafa Czichos was out of his control. Torres, Przybyłko, and Herbers were all second-half subs who made the difference, and all three contributed to the Fire’s third goal. With the positives out of the way, this is the second consecutive game where the Fire have scored a late, seemingly crucial goal, only to see the score pegged back by their opponents two minutes later. Perhaps managing a lead is something that the Fire could be better at, as the winless streak is extended to nine.