The Chicago Fire finally won a match. That in and of itself is a minor miracle— despite playing the team fighting for the worst team in the Eastern Conference, the Fire seemed incapable of scoring. They may have been in control of the game and created the best opportunities of the night, but even at point blank range, the Fire never looked close to scoring.
The club’s failure in front of goal is nothing new. However, unlike in years past, it isn’t for lack of creative players with no ideas. The Fire’s midfield was excellent tonight. With first-half possession numbers close to 60% and a passing percentage above 80, the Fire were dominant in attacking the south endzone. Gaston Gimenez kept possession and was able to dribble and pass out of tight spaces, creating opportunities for Brian Gutierrez and Chris Mueller to find pockets of space where they could work. Mueller has been the best player on the team since he got here, and tonight was no different. He had the highest xAssists +xGoals with .7 and danced around several defenders to create crossing opportunities.
Brian Gutierrez has transcended. Xherdan Shaqiri’s injury during the break opened the door for him to walk through, and he sprinted inside the building. He was involved in every good attacking play the Fire had in the first half, and he had two of the Fire’s five shots on goal. He looked more in sync with his attacking teammates and aside from not being able to finish, aside from Mueller he was the best player going forward.
But the Fire did eventually finish. While the second half was more even, with DC getting more time on the ball and some chances to score, It was the Fire who managed to put the ball in the back of the net. A ball out to the right-hand corner at the top of the box found Kacper Przybylko. He delivered an excellent cross to the head of Fabian Herbers who placed it perfectly into the bottom right quadrant of the goal. D.C.’s keeper made a valiant effort to keep it out, but Jhan Espinoza was there to smash the ball back into the goal just in case the video official had any doubt about the header. There wasn’t though, and Fabi was awarded the only goal of the game.
It’s understandable to not be so excited after tonight. They beat the worst team in the league aside from themselves and at times, looked shakey. The offense is still struggling to put away chances and the defense still needs improvement. However, the midfield is back to being good and in control. They have something special in Brian Gutierrez and Chris Mueller. There are things to be optimistic about on the lakefront. This win could be the start of something.
The Fire are next in action on June 25th against the Houston Dynamo in Texas.