What is there to say? What hasn’t been said about the 2022 Chicago Fire that hasn’t been said about teams of the recent and not-so-recent past? When the Fire start the game dominant for the first 20 minutes and then give up two goals just before halftime, It feels like we’re right back where we started at the beginning of the Georg Heitz era. Little hope and few options. Strikers who can’t score and a defense that breaks instead of bends.
To be sure there were some positives to take away, mostly, as I said, from the beginning of the game. Chris Mueller continues to shine as the best player on the field in Fire colors. His runs and on-ball movement are dynamic and precise. he knows exactly what he’s going to do with the ball before he gets it, and more often than not, it works.
Brian Gutierrez continues to show promise that only an 18-year-old attacking midfielder can show. He was in good spots and calm on the ball, even if his defensive workrate leaves a bit to be desired. I can only think that him coming off at halftime means that illness or no, Xherdan Shaqiri is not 90 minutes fit and they need him for Wednesday, which will also be a hot one at home.
Stanislav Ivanov was arguably the most dynamic player after Mueller. His attacks with the ball were good and he was a good Kacper Przybylko finish away from having two assists on the night.
And that’s where we come to the bad things. Kacper Przybylko has been a disappointment, to say the least. He just can’t score. He had two prime chances in the first 20 minutes and couldn’t score. If he does, the game is probably different, and we're sitting here talking about at least a draw.
Instead, Houston struck first. Thor Ulfarsson won a challenge for a cross that went off of the back of Boris Sekulic’s head and stuck it right into the path of Carlos Teran, where it deflected away from a diving Gaga Slonina, who probably saves it if it was hit clean. It was another unlucky goal in a string of unlucky goals where if the ball bounces slightly differently, it’s “move along, nothing to see here.” It’s really the second goal, given up shortly before the halftime whistle that was the real insult to the Fire faithful.
A whipped-in cross went right in between the trio of Carlos Teran, Przybylko, and Rafael Czichos to Darwin Quintero, who juked past the Fire captain with a neat little stepover, and placed the ball perfectly into the net. It was a finish Fire fans could only dream of from their team.
The second half was lethargic and uninspired. After removing their key attacking piece in Gutierrez for Fabian Herbers at halftime, the Fire struggled to create anything in the second 45. Their best chances came off of set pieces won by Mueller and another sub, Jhan Espinoza. Houston were content to ride their 2-0 lead to the end.
It really is just more of the same for the Fire. Even with a new front office, new players, and new ownership the club just can’t seem to figure out what’s going wrong on the field. The only solace we can take is that the two impact players brought in are still recovering from injury, and maybe things will change for the better when their here.
The Fire next play on Wednesday at home against the Philidelphia Union.