The Chicago Fire followed up a strong of encouraging performances with an extremely disappointing one as they lost 2-0 on the road to the struggling Houston Dynamo. After a promising start for the Fire, the hosts scored a pair of goals in the 23rd and 47th minutes which put to bed any hopes of a positive result. The Fire still sit in 14th play, recording only 14 points as the midpoint of the season approaches.
Starting Lineup (left to right): Slonina; Bornstein (A. Reynolds 80’), Czichos, Terán, Sekulić; F. Navarro (Offor 80’), Giménez; Mueller, Gutiérrez (Herbers 46’), Ivanov (Espinoza 59’); Pryzbyłko (Duràn 66’)
Gaga Slonina (7.5) — Before the international break, Gaga had an extremely rough period of a few matches where it seemed nothing was going his way. With more eyes watching him than ever before amidst transfer speculation, the 18-year-old put in a noteworthy performance and was the lone bright spot for the Fire in Houston. Gaga made three saves, and they were of top quality; the reaction save on Sebástian Ferreira in the 46th minute stands out as the best among the bunch, and it’s only a matter of time before that clip makes its way to London and Madrid.
Jonathan Bornstein (6.5) — The veteran full-back put in a decent shift for the second straight game, once again filling in for Miguel Navarro. The 37-year-old completed 92% of his passes and showed that he is still more than capable of backing up the Venezuelan on the left side, especially when deployed in his natural left-back position.
Rafael Czichos (5.5) — Defensively, Czichos had a game to forget. His communication and chemistry with Carlos Terán was visibly lacking, and despite reliable passing out of the back, there were numerous calamitous moments in defense for the center-back pairing. The most notable of which came on the second goal, in which Czichos was rinsed by the forward allowing him to score.
Carlos Terán (6) — Carlos Terán is the kind of unpredictable center-back that will lose you a goal and save you one in the same game. He put one such performance in tonight. Terán was partially at fault for both goals, deflecting in the first, and watching a cross fly over his head which resulted in the second. On the contrary, though, he had some big stops to prevent Houston from scoring. With Wyatt Omsberg now out for the season, Terán has an opportunity to stake his claim for the starting job next to Czichos, and he will have to prove himself over the next few matches with Mauricio Pineda unavailable for selection.
Boris Sekulić (6) — Following up a resurgent performance against DC last week, Sekulić struggled against the Dynamo as he wilted in the summer heat. The right-back lost an aerial duel resulting in the first goal, and his offensive contribution were relatively limited. There are a huge number of fixtures coming up in the next few weeks, and if he can refind his best form, the Fire will be optimistic they can pick up a lot of points from the summer period.
Fede Navarro (6) — On the ball, the Argentine had a respectable performance; the stats would tell you that he completed a remarkable 98% of his passes (41/42), but aside from that, he was not so convincing. Navarro has not quite been the defensive difference-maker that he has been at times in the past, and he only won two ground duels in 80 minutes against the Dynamo. In terms of connecting the defense to the attack, he also struggled, hardly managing to transport the ball further up the field.
Gastón Giménez (7) — Giménez was a little better than Navarro at progressing the ball, but at the end of the day there wasn’t much to show for it. He completed 53 passes and 3/3 dribbles. Defensively, he was also better than Navarro, despite what their midfield roles would suggest; Giménez won 6/6 ground duels and made 3/3 tackles.
Chris Mueller (6) — There was no lack of effort, but Mueller was simply unable to put the ball in the back of the net. He took six shots, but not one was on target. His set-piece delivery has also been somewhat insufficient. With all of that being said, Mueller has still brought new energy to the attack and continues to show signs of encouragement.
Brian Gutiérrez (5.5) — Guti had a forgettable first-half performance which saw him pulled for Fabian Herbers at halftime. He was another player who didn’t look at his best in the heat, though he did have one of the Fire’s best scoring chances in the first half with a powerful header from inside the box. Playing centrally as the 10, he only had 25 touches and struggled to get involved too much in the play.
Stanislav Ivanov (7) — The injury and illness of Xherdan Shaqiri gave Ivanov an opportunity to start, and he was the Fire’s most lively attacker in the first half. Stani had a pair of good crosses to Mueller in the 3rd and 43rd minutes, but the American was unable to convert on either chance. He also had a very nice move in the 8th minute where he weaved between multiple defenders, but the ensuing shot went just wide. He was subbed off after an hour; if it was for tactical reasons, that is a somewhat puzzling decision, because he was putting in one of his best showings of the last few months.
Kacper Przybyłko (5) — Przybyłko had another anonymous performance, and frustration is continuing to mount around the Polish striker. In the opening 20 minutes, he missed two chances from inside the six-yard box, and then struggled to get involved for the rest of the match before he was taken off in the 66th minute.
Fabian Herbers (6) — Herbers replaced Gutiérrez at the half and failed to make much of an impact in the second 45. He did manage to get one shot on target, but he also had one shot that went so far wide it practically reached the corner flag.
Jhon Espinoza (5) — It’s not Espinoza’s fault that he is being asked to do a job in a position, the right-wing, which is certainly not his natural one. However, he struggled to make an impact and made some simple mistakes. He only had 12 touches in his 39 minutes on the field.
Jhon Durán (5) — Durán got about half an hour on the field and only had 6 touches. The lack of service didn’t help, but he failed to stake his claim for the starting job nonetheless.
Andre Reynolds II (6) — Reynolds got a cameo at left-back towards the end of the match and did a solid job, even if there is not much that he really could have done to change the game at that point.
Chinonso Offor (NR) — Offor also made a brief cameo, in which he only had 5 touches.
Ezra Hendrickson (5) — Is it fair to pinpoint the Fire’s recent misfortune on the coach? Probably not, because individual mistakes and consistent player absences have made life much more difficult for Ezra. However, after yet another failure, it may be time to shake things up a little bit and try something different. With next Wednesday’s home game against Philadelphia marking the halfway point of the MLS season and the playoffs now bordering on out of reach, it may be time to wonder if the Fire’s season is already approaching lame-duck status.