The Chicago Fire extended their unbeaten run to four in a 0-0 stalemate with Atlanta United at Soldier Field. Neither team could really gain control of the match, nor could they take their chances when they came. The Fire did make a strong push towards the end of the second half but ultimately could not find the breakthrough in front of the 23,951 spectators in attendance.
Starting Lineup (left to right): Slonina; M. Navarro, Czichos, Terán (Giménez 76’), Sekulić; Pineda, F. Navarro; Mueller (Gutiérrez 88’), Shaqiri, Torres (Herbers 88’); Durán (Przybyłko 62’)
Gaga Slonina (7.5) — The Fire’s number one notched his 10th clean sheet of the season, and had another solid performance between the sticks. This very well may be Gaga’s final game as an official Fire player, as he will technically finish the season on loan from Chelsea. Slonina made two saves, including one diving save. His distribution was OK, but he has been slowly improving as the season has progressed.
Miguel Ángel Navarro (7.5) — Defensively, the Fire were very solid against a strong Atlanta attack. Navarro had a solid shift at left back, and provided more evidence that he is refining his form following a long difficult stretch at the beginning of the summer. Navarro created 3 chances, and he also helped out defensively extensively.
Rafael Czichos (7) — Following up his team of the week outing last week, Czichos was a little bit quieter this time out. He did the defensive job expected of him, for sure, and helped the defensive unit to keep another clean sheet. His passing was fine, though he was not at his best; he could not add to his 3 July goals, unfortunately, but did some close with an acrobatic attempt in the second half.
Carlos Terán (7.5) — The Colombian center-back had a very good game, which came to a premature end in the 76th minute. From a defensive standpoint, Terán impressed once again, and was effective in the heart of the back line. He was also good playing out of the back. His night was cut short when he came off with a hamstring injury late in the second half. Though the severity is not yet known, it would be a huge blow if Terán has to miss time, as he has finally been hitting his best form and the Fire’s center back depth is not what it should be with Wyatt Omsberg also out. There could be some business on that front before the MLS transfer window closes on August 4th.
Boris Sekulić (7) — As mentioned previously, the back-line was crucial in securing the shutout, even if it wasn’t tested as much as it should have been. Sekulić definitely did his part, though he wasn’t necessarily as involved going forward as Navarro was. What is truly lacking for Sekulić is that contribution in the attack, because he has been good enough against the ball.
Fede Navarro (8) — Fede Navarro had a great game in the middle of the field, and his defensive contributions made him one of if not the best players in the match. He stepped up defensively as he has all summer, and made good contributions going forward in the absence of Gastón Giménez from the starting eleven. As with the rest of the team, for him its now all about putting in these games every week; he will be essential to the Fire’s late playoff push.
Mauricio Pineda (7.5) — Slotting into the starting eleven once again for the recovering Gastón Giménez, Pineda displayed some of his best qualities in midfield against Atlanta. He was good from a defensive standpoint, and he was involved in the buildup going forward. When asked to move to center back in the closing minutes when Terán was forced to come off, he did well and showcased his versatility. Though Ezra Hendrickson prefers to play Pineda in the midfield, he may be forced to utilize him in defense due to injuries; it will be fascinating to see how he functions there over 90 minutes.
Jairo Torres (6.5) — The Mexican YDP made his first Fire start since May, and was certainly underwhelming. The Fire’s offense was relatively stagnant, and the decision to start Torres over Brian Gutiérrez did not pay off. He showed flashes of what he can do, but just couldn’t put things together in front of goal, and is lacking that final killer instinct in the final third. He also missed some of the most clear-cut opportunities of the game for the Fire. Presumably, he did not do enough to keep his spot in the eleven, but only time will tell.
Xherdan Shaqiri (8) — Shaqiri is extremely unlucky not to be the game-winner, as he had the game’s lone goal chalked off for offside following a VAR check in the second half. Though the goal didn’t count, he still providing some very stylish moments on the ball throughout the match, and his quality is really beginning to shine through at this point of the season. Shaqiri created 6 chances, and was also fouled 6 times. He did get an unnecessary yellow card for dissent, which is not ideal.
Chris Mueller (6.5) — Mueller did not have his best game and was very quiet on the wings. He had a few chances but struggled to challenge the goalkeeper with any of them. In addition, he lost 10 duels, and his dribbling was not as effective as usual. Regardless, he still managed to find some chances to score and though he couldn’t ultimately find the target, it’s good to see him still getting involved.
Jhon Durán (6) — Durán has been in phenomenal form lately and has made the #9 position his own, but he did not have a convincing outing against Atlanta. His frustration certainly showed after he was substituted, and he exited having failed to make too much of an impact. Durán went down on many occasions, but didn’t have a lot to show for it, and failed to produce a shot on target.
Kacper Przybyłko (6.5) — The decision to bring on Przybyłko with the scores level in the second half was bold, and unfortunately, it didn’t pay off. The forward was lively in some moments off the bench and got into some good positions but couldn’t find the finishing touch. Since March, he still only has one goal, which came all the way back in May, but there is still a chance he could earn the start for next weekend after Durán’s unconvincing performance.
Gastón Giménez (7) — Giménez wasn’t expected to be needed, as he is recovering from injury and wasn’t fit enough to start. He entered as the injury replacement for Carlos Terán when Mauricio Pineda slotted back to center back, and Giménez had a decent cameo. In his limited minutes, he brought some extra rhythm to the midfield, and regardless of the Terán injury situation, Gastón will likely start if he is ready to go.
Fabian Herbers (NR) — Herbers came on in the closing minutes and only helped close out the 0-0 tie. He had 6 touches.
Brian Gutiérrez (NR) — Guti probably should have gotten more minutes than he did, given the struggles of the starters out wide. He didn’t have enough time to make a significant impact, as he was introduced in the 88th minute.
Ezra Hendrickson (6) — Clearly, Ezra can coach defense. That is something we know, and the Fire have been efficient defensively for the majority of the season. But throughout the year, Ezra’s shown that changing a game with adjustments and substitutions is not his strong suit. At times he decisions are too predictable, and Atlanta came into this game prepared for what they were about to face. Though a solid back-line is crucial, and teams that don’t concede typically don’t lose, the Fire desperately need some new ideas in the attack if they want to maintain their ambitious playoff push.