The Chicago Fire experienced another frustrating collapse as they lost 4-1 on the road against Atlanta United. After falling behind early, Chinonso Offor gave the Fire hope when he smacked in Xherdan Shaqiri’s cross for an equalizer. However, Atlanta United quickly jumped to a 3-1 lead as Ronaldo Cisneros completed his hat trick. There were certainly chances in the second half to get back into the game, but the Fire didn’t take them, and Brooks Lennon added the exclamation point in stoppage time.
Starting Lineup (left to right): Slonina; M. Navarro (Espinoza 90+2’), Omsberg, Terán, Sekulić; F. Navarro, Pineda; Gutiérrez (Mueller 45’), Shaqiri, Ivanov (Herbers 63’); Offor (V. Bezerra 81’)
Gaga Slonina (5) — Slonina shipped four goals, and more than one of them was preventable. It was a hot-and-cold performance; he made three saves, and they were good saves too. His distribution was also improved, with 77% of his passes completed. Gaga is now just 8 days off from his 18th birthday.
Miguel Ángel Navarro (5.5) — Throughout the season, Navarro has been so crucial to the team as he has been effective both going forwards and defensively. He looked lost positionally on defense against Atlanta, and was hardly involved in the attack.
Wyatt Omsberg (5) — Omsberg was asked to assume a different role today. First, he was shifted over to his unnatural left side of the center back pairing to replace Rafa Czichos, who missed out due to suspension. Second, he was tasked with being the primary organizer of the defense, with the captain Czichos unavailable. While his passing was solid, the disorganized defense was a big reason that the Fire conceded so many goals. He was beaten for pace on the third goal, which allowed Cisneros to take Slonina one-on-one.
Carlos Terán (4.5) — The Colombian got his first start of the season, and didn’t cover himself in glory. His failure to shut down his man resulted in Atlanta’s second goal, and he was positionally poor across the board. If he wants to earn more starts in MLS as a center back, he has a lot to improve on, including being consistently fit and availible.
Boris Sekulić (5) — Sekulić had a difficult outing, and was very underwhelming today even if he has been the Fire’s most consistent and reliable player this season. His positioning kept the Atlanta attacker onside for their third, even though he wasn’t involved in the play at all.
Fede Navarro (6.5) — Navarro’s high work rate and ability to break up attacks stood out in the midfield. While it won’t help the Fire score goals, and won’t prevent silly errors at the back, his role in the midfield double pivot has allowed the Fire to remain competitive in midfield battles all season, even against superior opposition.
Mauricio Pineda (6) — The midfielder looked lost defensively throughout the game, but had a decent game on the ball. Pineda completed 36/41 passes, and 5/6 long balls, while creating two key passes.
Brian Gutiérrez (5.5) — Guti was substituted at halftime after a relatively anonymous 45 minutes. He only had 12 touches, and was isolated on the wing. He would benefit from being moved centrally.
Xherdan Shaqiri (6) — Shaqiri had the assist on the Fire’s only goal, but was not effective apart from that. The stats are not flattering: 0/10 crosses completed, 0/3 shots on target, 2/7 ground duels won... more needs to come from the superstar designated player. His playmaking needs to be kicked up a notch. He is also being dragged too deep by the 4-2-3-1 shape; like Gutiérrez, he would benefit from being flipped to another position in the three underneath the striker.
Stanislav Ivanov (5) — Ivanov got the start and played 63 minutes. In the final third, he could not find his feet. Both of his two shots could not find the target.
Chinonso Offor (6.5) — Kacper Przybyłko missed out against Atlanta due to injury, and could be out for several weeks, which opens up the race for the number nine position. With Jhon Duran suspended, Offor had his chance to stake his claim. He scored, finally notching his second career MLS goal in his 37th appearance when he found himself in the right place at the right time on the end of a Xherdan Shaqiri cross. However, aside from that finish in the first half, he was underwhelming and missed one glorious opportunity in the second half to get the Fire back into the game.
Chris Mueller (6.5) — The debut of Chris Mueller was a bright spot, as he returned to MLS after a brief spell at Hibernian FC in Scotland. He played 45 minutes, and was impactful on the ball, even if the Fire were unable to score in the second period. He made things happen in the attack, and showed encouraging signs that he can be a useful contributor for Chicago this season.
Fabian Herbers (6) — Herbers made his return from injury after several weeks playing on the right wing. He had 15 touches, but didn’t make a huge impact on the game.
Victor Bezerra (NR) — Victor Bezerra made his MLS debut with a couple minutes at the end of the game when Offor pulled up with cramps. Though he only had 6 touches of the ball, it is nice to see another homegrown talent get on the field for the Fire.
Jhon Espinoza (NR) — Espinoza made a two minute cameo in stoppage time after Atlanta’s fourth goal went in.
Ezra Hendrickson (5) — The Fire had to work without some very important players today, such as Rafa Czichos, Kacper Przybylko, and Jairo Torres (who may have to wait several weeks for his Fire debut). After going behind in the third minute, Hendrickson’s team initially had a strong reaction, to go down the other end and score. However, after that, the Fire lost a step and were always playing from behind. Other than Chris Mueller, who had his minutes managed after joining this week, the substitutes made very little impact. Ezra needs to turn this ship around quickly, or the Fire’s season could quickly fall into obscurity like many years past.