Have you ever done something completely different but gotten the same result? The cliche goes “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and expecting different results.” But what do you call doing different things and getting the same result? Whatever it is, it’s exactly what happened to the Chicago Fire tonight.
Hendrickson made four changes to the starting XI tonight, and they were all expected after what happened against San Jose. The assister and goalscorer from that game, Jhon Duran and Brian Gutierrez started at striker and on the wing, respectively. Jhan Espinoza started on the right for Boris Sekulic, and Miguel Navarro claimed his starting spot back. And at least going forward, it worked like a charm.
Duran and Gutierrez changed what was a deliberate and often static offense into a flowing dynamic experience. Duran’s sense of where the game is going, alongside his speed and power, makes him a threat, no matter how he’s being defended. And Guti’s touch and finesse are some of the best I’ve ever seen in an American. The things he can do with the ball at his feet are spectacular, and the touch on his passes is sublime. When that is added to the threat that is Xherdan Shaqiri and the Fire’s best player in Chris Mueller, the Fire are all of a sudden a very dangerous offense.
Their pressure would be rewarded on a corner kick. Mueller swiped in a cross from a short one right onto the head of Rafael Czichos who redirected it off the back post and in. It was his third for the club but first in the league. 20 minutes later, Mueller turned goalscorer after an excellent sequence that had Jhon Duran put in a low cross from the left side of the box. Mueller kicked it like he was on tilt through a defender and the goalkeeper. The Fire went into the half 2-0.
The second half was completely different. Caleb Porter made two subs at halftime, including Derick Etienne Jr, and changed tactics to a 4-4-2. Etienne would go on to score the first two goals in the comeback. The first came after the Fire’s midfield fell asleep on a throw-in and Miguel Navarro failed to step forward to put him offside. His second was just an all-around good play. Etienne dribbled through four Fire players before the ball made its way across to Luis Diaz, another Porter sub. He crossed it back across goal where Etienne continued his run and scored. It was beautiful in its brutality- the kind of goal the 2017 Fire would score. They then finished the job with a chip over Gaga from their 10 million dollar man. Cucho Hernández, Columbus’s new Designated Player came on, got a yellow card, and scored the winner.
This is going to keep happening for a while more, yet. The Fire organization doesn’t know how to win games. The players have never experienced winning at a high club level aside from Shaqiri. And Ezra Hendrickson is just as inexperienced at managing games. The hope is that they all can figure things out quickly. But being real, it’s probably going to take the rest of this year for them to figure out how to win.
The Fire next take on Toronto FC Wednesday at Soldier Field.