Sometimes a handball isn’t a handball and sometimes ball to hand is a penalty. The Chicago Fire were undone by the latter against NYCFC. Fotis Bazakos and his VAR correctly interpreted the handball rule— Miguel’s arms were spread out after jumping (yay physics) and the ball hit his forearm. By rule, that’s a penalty, but the fact that the ball can be headed down into an arm that’s extended because that’s how physics work can even be called a handball is suspect. Regardless, Heber buried the penalty and that was basically game over.
The Fire had a few chances at goal and a few good attacking moments in the 90 minutes, but none of them tested Sean Johnson’s goal. A few went over the bar, like Jhan Duran’s effort in the first half that came from a wonderful bit of play and a cross by Chris Meuller. in the second half, the Fire actually put the ball in the back of the net. A wonderful movement from midfield found Meuller on the right, who crossed it in front of goal. Shaqiri was on the receiving end this time and put it in the net. But the flag went up as Chris was a half step off and it was disallowed.
Gabriel Slonina looked better than he has in weeks. Maybe there is something to not having the weight of his international future hanging over him, because he made saves he’s been missing the last few games. While he still has to work on not giving up rebounds and his distribution, it was nice to see him steady up.
Games like these are not the problem. You kind of expect this with the third place in 8 days on a borderline illegal pitch. The real problems are the games against Atlanta, where you get blown out, or this past Wednesday against the Red Bulls, where you blow it late. A win on Wednesday would have made this one more palatable. This game was an anomaly that only happens in a baseball stadium. But put it together with blowing a lead and a blowout loss and giving up points late, it starts to become exhausting. This is the Fire’s 9th game in a row without defeat, and it’s starting to weigh on the squad. Let’s hope brighter days are ahead.
The Fire are next in action Saturday, May 28th against Toronto FC