The Chicago Fire handed the Phildelphia Union only their second loss of the season after a dramatic 1-0 at Soldier Field. Fede Navarro’s second-half goal was the difference between the two teams, and secured the three points for the Fire as they look to turn their season around.
Starting Lineup (left to right): Slonina; A. Reynolds (Bornstein 65’), Czichos, Terán, Sekulić; F. Navarro, Giménez; Mueller (Espinoza 86’), Shaqiri, Herbers (Gutiérrez 65’); Pryzbyłko
Gaga Slonina (8) — Gaga’s strong June form continued with a huge performance on Wednesday night against the Union. He only had two saves, but it is hard to deny his impact on the game as he ensured that the ball stayed out of his net. The highlight came in the 47th minute; Gaga first made a high-quality diving save to tip Cory Burke’s shot off the post, but then he reclaimed the ball off of the line as it nearly trickled in behind him. The clean sheet is Slonina’s seventh of the season... the second most in MLS, with only Sean Johnson having more (8).
Andre Reynolds II (7) — The homegrown full-back made his first start in MLS in his fourth season and put in a good shift to contain the strong attack of the Union. Philadelphia focused much of their attack down his side, but the visitors could not produce anything. Reynolds was promising in his 65 minutes and showed that if he can maintain this level, he will be a good, reliable option to have for this team in the left-back position.
Rafael Czichos (7) — Though he had one of the most frustrating misses of the night, Rafa Czichos put in a strong defensive performance and certainly played his role in securing the shutout. His 5 clearances and 3 interceptions are the stats that stand out the most, though his distribution was not at his best.
Carlos Terán (7.5) — Terán had a huge shift defensively and made a strong case to take the lead in what appears to be a two-horse race between himself and Mauricio Pineda to start at right center back in the absence of Wyatt Omsberg. The numbers speak for themselves; 8 clearances, 11 recoveries, 4 aerial duels won... it was a big night for the Colombian who had been struggling for consistency as of late.
Boris Sekulić (8) — Another player who put in a top, top performance was right-back Boris Sekulić. Boki is another player who has been looking to find consistency this season; he has had some excellent games where he has shown his quality and others where he looks like a shadow of his former self. Against the Union, he was one of the Fire’s most impactful players and had a huge game on both sides of the ball, culminating in the assist for Fede Navarro’s goal. On the assist, Boki ventured all the way into the opposing penalty box and had the awareness to exploit the already-booked Jose Martínez and set up Navarro for the game-winner.
Fede Navarro (9) — Navarro’s rating is the highest that we have awarded this season, and deservedly so. Fede played in the midfield double-pivot and did exactly what he was asked to do and more. Navarro dominated defensively as a ball-winner, preventing the Union from creating any chances, and his performance culminated in the 68th-minute game-winning goal. Since arriving at the Fire, Navarro’s role next to Gastón Giménez has been primary defensive. He has been asked to do the dirty work. However, against the Union, he was encouraged to get forward more and be involved in the build-up. The adjustment paid off; Navarro completed 39 passes, made 4 long balls, and of course, scored his only shot of the night.
Gastón Giménez (7.5) — The more proactive role of Fede Navarro in his match did not limit the creativity of Giménez, and the DP still put in a strong performance. Giménez made 55 passes and 10 long balls and played a big role in closing out the game in the second half. When Philadelphia was reduced to 10 men, it was essential that the Fire just held onto the ball, and Giménez ensured that they could do that.
Chris Mueller (8) — Chris Mueller was extremely impactful on the wing on Wednesday night. His best moment came on the goal, where he weaved in and out of Defender of the Year frontrunner Kai Wagner, a play that found the feet of Boris Sekulić who provided the assist. Mueller started on the left but was flipped to the right with the introduction of Brian Gutiérrez, and he certainly made life difficult for both fullbacks.
Xherdan Shaqiri (6.5) — Shaqiri returned from a month-long injury layoff and came straight into the starting lineup, though he did not have the most impactful performance. Shaqiri was very involved in the buildup, ultimately making 88 touches in the attacking midfield position, but he struggled to create. Completing only 1/4 dribbles and 1/9 crosses, it was a frustrating night, and his set pieces were simply not good enough. However, as the World Cup approaches, there is still plenty of time for the Swiss international to step up and show his world-class talent.
Fabian Herbers (6) — Herbers was picked over Brian Gutiérrez and was almost anonymous. He did not have too much of an impact on the attack, and was ultimately pulled for Guti around the hour mark. Herbers had three shots, but none of them found the target.
Kacper Przybyłko (6) — As displayed by the forgettable performances of Przybyłko, Shaqiri, and Herbers, this game was won in the midfield, not the attack. The Pole, playing against his former team, had yet another difficult game, though he was able to get into some good positions. The most notable moment was his header which hit the woodwork.
Brian Gutiérrez (7) — Guti was somewhat surprisingly dropped from the lineup for Herbers, and when he entered in the 65th minute, the balance tipped in the Fire’s favor. Though he will still have to wait for his first Fire goal, the 19-year-old brought new energy in the second half and had a solid shift.
Jonathan Bornstein (7) — In half an hour, Bornstein didn’t have a lot to do as Philadelphia struggled to create chances in the second half. He did what he was asked to do, completed 9/9 passes, and ultimately, helped close out the win and the clear sheet.
Jhon Espinoza (NR) — Espinoza filled in on the right-wing for the final minutes, and also did what he was asked to do, but there was not enough time for him to make any contribution of note.
Ezra Hendrickson (8) — A lot of credit has to go to the head coach for this win. Even with the Fire in last place, the team still has the belief and motivation to go out and fight for the three points against what the standings would suggest are a vastly superior team. The tweak of the midfield to give Navarro more license to go forward paid off, of course resulting in the goal. In addition, the 65th-minute changes, which included moving Chris Mueller to the right, certainly paid dividends and enabled the Fire to grab their second win from three games.