The Chicago Fire cruised past Toronto FC on Wednesday night, recording their easiest win of the season by a score of 2-0. Despite a few forced changes to the lineup, the Fire got off to a hot start, and took the lead barely three minutes in through 18-year-old Colombian striker Jhon Durán. The teenager doubled his goal tally 12 minutes later, putting the game effectively out of reach for Bob Bradley’s Reds. The Fire dominated the rest of the match, enjoying their third victory in six games.
Starting Lineup (left to right): Slonina; Bornstein, Czichos, Terán, Sekulić; Pineda, F. Navarro; Gutiérrez (Herbers 68’), Shaqiri (Torres 77’), Mueller (Ivanov 77’); Durán (Pryzbyłko 68’)
Gaga Slonina (8.5) — The Fire’s #1 recorded his eighth shutout of the season, and put together a strong performance between the sticks. Gaga made two huge saves, one from Mark-Anthony Kaye and one from Domenico Criscito, and it is safe to say that he earned his clean sheet. While transfer speculation continues to mount, Slonina has been playing better than ever before and is developing extremely well in Chicago.
Jonathan Bornstein (7.5) — A last-minute red card for Miguel Navarro in the previous match ruled him out, so Bornstein came into the lineup and was excellent. The veteran full-back was solid defensively and did what he had to do going forward, completing 86% of his passes and winning 4 aerial duels. While there is a good chance that Andre Reynolds will get the start on Saturday simply for fresh legs, Jonny did what he had to do and showed why he is such a reliable backup option for the Fire.
Rafael Czichos (7.5) — The captain was defensively sound and effective on the ball, which is exactly what one would expect of a player of his calibre. Since Czichos’ arrival, the defensive unit has been much more cohesive and organized, and he is a big part of why. Czichos completed 44 passes, including 7 long balls. He won 5/6 duels and made 2 tackles.
Carlos Terán (8) — Terán had an excellent game partnering with Czichos in central defense, and he has certainly made the right center-back position his own in the absence of Wyatt Omsberg. The goal now for Terán should shift towards putting in 90-minute performances like this every single week because the potential is certainly there for him to be one of the top center backs in MLS. The Colombian completed 10 long balls, 40 passes, and made 7 clearances.
Boris Sekulić (7) — While the second lowest-rated starter for the Fire, Boki did not have a bad game at all and pretty much did was he was asked to do in the right back position. While he wasn’t as impactful going forward, he still did what he had to do defensively, and didn’t make any errors as he completed 85% of his passes. While it was a relatively quiet game for Sekulić, that is in large part because he was not tested.
Mauricio Pineda (7.5) — The Fire bossed this game in the midfield, and Mauricio Pineda had an excellent game playing in the double pivot alongside Fede Navarro. He slotted in seamlessly for the suspended Gastón Giménez and went 90 minutes despite having not played any meaningful minutes since May 22nd. While he likely won’t start as Giménez returns to the team on Saturday, he continues to prove that he is a strong backup option in multiple positions.
Fede Navarro (8) — Navarro was at his best last night, continuing to play in the role of a defensive anchor at the base of the midfield. The duo of Navarro and Pineda gave Toronto little opportunities to create through the middle of the field, and the Argentine continues to win points for the club. It is worth noting that his offensive freedom was more limited when he was next to Pineda, as opposed to when he has been paired with Gastón Giménez in recent matches.
Brian Gutiérrez (8.5) — The 19-year-old Gutiérrez has now pretty much locked down a starting spot for the Fire, and to do so at the expense of the big-money DP from Liga MX, Jairo Torres, is nothing short of impressive. The relentless energy and pressing he brings to the attack, combined with the individual moments he brilliance that he can provide, only prove why he is viewed as one of the best prospects at the club. His assist on Jhon Durán’s second goal was nothing short of spectacular: an aerial backheel that set up the center forward to score a fantastic solo goal.
Xherdan Shaqiri (6) — Unfortunately, Shaqiri was painfully average in this game, and he failed to make a big impact. Most of the danger came from the wingers, Gutiérrez and Mueller, and the number nine, Jhon Durán. Despite playing centrally as the #10, Shaqiri only managed to get 45 touches of the ball, and completed just 19 passes. More should be expected of him, but there is reason for positivity; he made it clear when speaking to the media after the game that he is determined to succeed in Chicago, and hopefully his form will be taken to the next level soon.
Chris Mueller (8.5) — Since arriving in Chicago, Chris Mueller has been the Fire’s best player. He was impactful again against Toronto, and he got on the scoresheet by notching an assist on Jhon Durán’s first goal. He is also proving himself to be one of the best one-on-one attackers in the league, weaving through defenders for fun and making them look silly. He is a perfect fit for this team and franchise, and if he can keep up his good form he will continue to be a fan favorite in Chicago.
Jhon Durán (9.5) — For most of this season, Jhon Durán has been sitting on the bench, waiting for an opportunity to unseat the starter, Kacper Przybyłko. After strong showings in the previous two matches, Durán finally got that chance and had what could potentially prove to be his breakout game in a Fire shirt. While he comes up just short of a “10” rating (essentially reserved for hat tricks), he did everything right. He provided pressing high up the field to create the opportunity for the first goal, before he used his pace to run in behind Toronto’s high line and finish. On the second goal, he displayed his physical ability on the ball and avoided several challenges from defenders to secure his brace. In short, he provided everything that Kacper Przybyłko lacks, and for that reason has earned the starting job up front for now.
Kacper Przybyłko (6.5) — Przybyłko didn’t make any meaningful impact off the bench as the Fire closed out the win. He did have one long-distance shot which wasn’t too far from going in, though.
Fabian Herbers (6.5) — Fabi did exactly what he was asked to do, and that was to defend high up the field and help close out the game. In his 27 minutes, he didn’t see a lot of the ball, though.
Jairo Torres (6) — Torres got 18 minutes at the end, and didn’t see a lot of the ball. He didn’t make much of an impact but given that the game was truly winding down by that point, it’s hard to knock him too much.
Stanislav Ivanov (6) — The Bulgarian winger made a rare cameo appearance off the bench as the clock ticked towards 90. He didn’t see a lot of the ball and thus didn’t have much to do in this game.
Ezra Hendrickson (7) — After he was out-coached by Caleb Porter at the weekend, Ezra led his team to bounce back with a win. Ezra was more calculated with his substitutions this time, instead of just automatically making adjustments at the hour mark as he had all season. He has instilled belief in this group that this team can still make the playoffs despite the bleak circumstances, and while that may still be a stretch, it is an inherently positive thing. After facing his former club the Crew last week, he will face another one of his former employers, the Sounders, this weekend. It will surely be another test, like Porter’s Crew was, for the first-time head coach.