The Chicago Fire lost 2-1 to the San Jose Earthquakes in a game in which it felt like nothing went their way. After an impressive performance in the mid-week against the Philadelphia Union, they were outplayed by the Quakes and could only muster a late consolation through Brian Gutiérrez’s first MLS goal.
Starting Lineup (left to right): Slonina; Bornstein (A. Reynolds 46’), Czichos, Terán, Sekulić (Espinoza 61’); F. Navarro, Giménez; Mueller, Shaqiri (Gutiérrez 61’), Herbers (Torres 72’); Pryzbyłko (Durán 77’)
Gaga Slonina (8.5) — The Fire may have let in two goals, but Gaga put in an excellent performance in goal, and the numbers back that up. He made 6 saves, and they were not easy ones too; those saves amounted to nearly 2 xGOT, meaning that Gaga essentially prevented this game from being a total rout. Slonina will be hoping that his top-class form can translate into the upcoming three-game home stand at Soldier Field.
Jonathan Bornstein (5.5) — Bornstein was pretty poor in his 45 minutes, before he was taken off for Andre Reynolds II. His passing and crossing were not great, and he was ineffective defensively. The good news for Fire fans is that Miguel Navarro is expected to be back for next weekend.
Rafael Czichos (6) — Apart from the moment where Czichos was robbed of a clear and obvious penalty late in the second half, he had a quiet night. He was twice caught in no-man’s land on the second San Jose goal, allowing the Quakes to put the game out of reach in the closing minutes.
Carlos Terán (6.5) — Terán played a relatively indifferent game. He absolutely could have done more to close down the first Quakes goal, and that is the defining defensive moment for him. However, at the other end of the field, Terán produced one of the best chances of the night, when he got a shot on target off of a set piece which was ultimately saved.
Boris Sekulić (6) — Boris Sekulić’s apparent inability to string multiple good performances together has been emblematic of the Fire’s hot-and-cold season. In some games, like last Wednesday, Boki looks like one of the best players on the field, while in others, he struggles mightily. The San Jose outing was one of the latter, and he was taken off after an hour for Jhon Espinoza.
Fede Navarro (6) — The Argentine midfielder followed up his best game in a Fire shirt with a forgettable one. In the defining moment of the first half, he had an opportunity that seemed like an inevitability to hit the back of the net, but it was saved. Defensively, he was also not at his best, only winning 6/16 ground duels and giving away 4 fouls.
Gastón Giménez (5.5) — Giménez also failed to make an impact after a strong showing against Philadelphia. The double-pivot in midfield was poor and didn’t leave enough of a stamp on the game; losing the midfield battle is a huge part of the reason why the Fire ultimately lost this game. The Fire will need Gastón at his best for the busy weeks to come.
Chris Mueller (7.5) — While he didn’t score or get an assist, Mueller had a good game on the wing and created several chances. At many times, he has looked like the Fire’s most dangerous player in the final third. Once he adds some more regular end product, he can start cooking in the attack like he did with Orlando in years past.
Xherdan Shaqiri (7) — Shaqiri didn’t have his best game, but his quality still was visible in his 61 minutes on the field. His best moment came when he played a perfect pass for Kacper Przybylko; ultimately, the striker failed to capitalize. The Swiss DP signaled to the bench near the end of the first half that he was feeling some discomfort and he would later be substituted 15 minutes into the second half; Ezra Hendrickson indicated after the match that he was feeling okay and that the sub was just precautionary, but more details should become available in the coming days. The Fire are absolutely a better team with Shaqiri’s playmaking quality on the field.
Fabian Herbers (5.5) — Hendrickson opted to start Herbers over Brian Gutiérrez because he is a “more disciplined defender”. That decision did not pay off, because Herbers hardly made any positive impact on the game. With only 26 touches and 10 passes in his 72 minutes, Herbers showed that he is better as a reinforcement off the bench.
Kacper Przybyłko (4.5) — This was the game where Kacper Przybyłko finally lost his starting spot, in all likelihood. The Pole couldn’t find the target with any of his three shots, one of which was so poor that it nearly his the corner flag. He is just not taking his chances, and that is holding the Fire back. Expect to see a fresh face start up top next Saturday.
Andre Reynolds II (5.5) — After a decent game in his first start last week, Reynolds found life a little bit more difficult this time out. He could have done better on both goals, and made a minimal contribution on the ball and going forward. Nonetheless, the potential is there and there is still plenty of time for him to grow into a reliable option at left-back for the Fire.
Brian Gutiérrez (8) — The silver lining of a difficult night for the Fire was Brian Gutiérrez’s first professional goal. Guti got on the end of a ball from Jhon Durán, and finished the chance brilliantly. In making a huge impact off the bench, Guti sent a strong message to his coach who should be starting on Saturday. Now, the 19-year-old will hope to turn the corner and kick on with more consistent goal contributions in Major League Soccer.
Jhon Espinoza (6) — Espinoza came in after 61 minutes for Boris Sekulić, and wasn’t any better. One could argue that he should have made more of an attacking impact off the bench, and he didn’t do so, but he didn’t get on the ball enough to do that.
Jairo Torres (6.5) — Torres still has some work to do after returning from injury, but he made a small positive impact in bringing some new energy to the attack in the second half. Its not clear whether he is ready to start yet based on his injury problems, but either way, he will still have to wrestle that spot away from Brian Gutiérrez and earn a place in the XI.
Jhon Durán (7.5) — The Colombian may have only made a brief cameo at the end, and he may have only had 6 touches, but he made the most of them. His assist — a perfectly weighted through ball to Brian Gutiérrez — was one of the cleanest moments we’ve seen from a Fire played this season and should earn him a start up top next week against the Columbus Crew. Ezra Hendrickson was full of praise after the match for the young striker, further suggesting that he will get a huge opportunity to start at Soldier Field on Saturday.
Ezra Hendrickson (6.5) — While most of the subs made a positive impact on the game, it is still another difficult result to swallow for the Fire. San Jose is an opponent that the Fire should be beating and they failed to do so. The inability to finish has been the Fire’s biggest problem this season, and a solution needs to be found.