After a string of impressive performances over the last few weeks, the Chicago Fire’s momentum was halted in Chester as they were crushed 4-1 by Philadelphia Union. The Union, who lead the Eastern Conference, took an early lead through Dániel Gazdag and capitalized on a series of individual mistakes to put four goals past Fire keeper Gaga Slonina. Amidst an abysmal performance from the Fire, Chris Mueller provided the visitors’ only consolation with a second-half goal past MLS All-Star Andre Blake.
Starting Lineup (left to right): Slonina; M. Navarro, Czichos, Pineda, Sekulić (Reynolds II 87’); Giménez (Herbers 66’), F. Navarro; Mueller, Shaqiri (Casas Jr. 79), Torres (Gutiérrez 66’); Przybyłko (Durán 66’)
Gaga Slonina (4.5) — Though Slonina has been one of the Fire’s top performers throughout the summer, he had a rough night in Pennsylvania. He was beaten twice on chips, which is always a frustrating way to concede, though on both occasions the defense left him on an island. There is no excuse for the second goal, though, in which Gaga misjudged the location of the crossbar and fumbled the ball away for Jack Elliot to score. Its important to note that there should not be any alarm bells ringing; inconsistency is to be expected of any young player, especially a goalkeeper, and now its all about putting this game behind himself and focusing on NYCFC next week.
Miguel Ángel Navarro (5.5) — The Fire’s back line was, to put it lightly, pretty bad. Miguel Navarro often seemed lost on the left side of defense, and couldn’t do much to prevent the onslaught from the Union. He had multiple misplaced passes, and couldn’t make an impact going forward either.
Rafa Czichos (4.5) — Czichos came straight back into the starting eleven upon his return from illness, but he struggled mightily for 90 minutes. The defense was totally disorganized, and this was best exemplified by the first and third goals. Czichos had some misplaced passes which really made things messy, and was far from his best on the ball.
Mauricio Pineda (4) — In his second successive game filling in as a center back, the homegrown Pineda had a difficult night. Pineda has shown that this season, he is definitively better in the midfield but the circumstances created by a lack of center-back depth have meant that he has to play in the defense for now. Pineda only won one-third of his duels, didn’t win a single tackle all night, and was beaten numerous times by attackers. Surely, given his talent, it’s only up from here for Pineda.
Boris Sekulić (5) — Most of Philadelphia’s attack was focused down the center of the field, but Boki’s performance was nothing to write home about. The right-back failed to put up any defense contributions and didn’t add much to the attack either. He also seemed somewhat lost on some occasions when the Union countered.
Gastón Giménez (5.5) — Unfortunately, Giménez picked up an injury that could rule him out for some time. Though the severity is not yet known, the early signs suggest that his hamstring injury could be quite serious. In his 66 minutes today, he was not too bad, although he was certainly lucky to stay on the field after he probably should have received a straight red card in the first half. The DP has had his best season with the Fire this year, and his presence will be missed for however long he is out.
Fede Navarro (4) — Last time the Fire met the Union, Navarro scored the winning goal and put in his best performance in a Fire shirt. This time around, he put in his worst. On the first goal, Navarro slipped when trying to defense Gazdag one-on-one, and it was the Argentine’s touch that directly led to the Union’s third goal. Defensively, Navarro was poor, and gave the ball away too much.
Jairo Torres (4.5) — Torres has had his injuries troubles since arriving in Chicago, but it could be argued that he has been the Fire’s most disappointing player this season. The DP is still yet to score in MLS, and he was practically anonymous tonight. When he did see the ball in the final third, the ball rarely found the target, and on the one occasion it did, it was when Torres missed the Fire’s best chance of the first half. There is still plenty of time for the talented winger to refind his best form, but for now, he is struggling.
Xherdan Shaqiri (6.5) — The $8 million-man has, to his credit, been closer to his best form recently, and even as the team put in one of their worst performances of the year, it's hard to say Shaqiri had a bad game. Most notably, he notched an assist on Chris Mueller’s goal, and he created a couple of chances in the attack for the Fire. The one thing he really does need to add, though, is some goals. His set piece delivery was also terrible and needs improvement. Shaqiri was substituted in the 79th minute for Javi Casas, presumably just to manage his minutes.
Chris Mueller (8) — On a night where the Fire were abysmal from top to bottom, Chris Mueller was still lights out. He was truly the bright spot, and not just for his excellent goal in the second half. Mueller made things happen, not just with his dribbling and crossing, but also with playmaking. He even contributed defensively and put up better defensive numbers than some of the defenders on the team (7 ground duels won, 1 tackle).
Kacper Przybyłko (5.5) — The number nine looked confident in his return to Philadelphia, but he couldn’t get on the scoresheet before being replaced in the 66th minute. Przybyłko did get into some good positions, and created a good chance for Jairo Torres in the first half, but didn’t necessarily do enough to keep his place for the next game.
Brian Gutiérrez (7) — The 19-year-old Gutiérrez was good when he came on for Torres in the second half, and should start over the Mexican DP next week. Guti completed 12/12 passes and won the ball back twice in his 24-minute run-out on the wing.
Fabian Herbers (6) — Once again, Herbers was deployed as a defensive midfielder in the 4-2-3-1, as struggled enough that Javi Casas was brought in a couple of minutes later to take over that role. Fabi certainly has a role on this team, and his versatility is a useful tool, but he is not at his best in such a deep position.
Jhon Durán (5.5) — Durán was introduced for Przybyłko in the second half, and didn’t see enough of the ball to get any production from those minutes. He ended the game with just 12 touches, but may have an opportunity to start next week against NYCFC after Przybyłko failed to make much of an impact as the starter.
Javi Casas Jr. (7) — The homegrown Casas made his third appearance of the season, and while his cameo was limited to just 11 minutes, he made a positive impression and should have the opportunity to start in midfield next week if Carlos Terán isn’t ready to go in defense. Casas won one tackle and completed most of his passes, making the most of his brief appearance.
Andre Reynolds II (NR) — Reynolds came on in an unnatural right back position in the final moments as a replacement for Boris Sekulić.
Ezra Hendrickson (5) — The Philadelphia Union are a much better team than the Chicago Fire at this moment in time, and there’s only so much the coach can do. But the team looked disorganized and was a mess defensively. The group seemed to mentally shut off after the third goal, and wandered aimlessly for much of the second half. But now, the focus must simply turn to the next game; the group must put this disaster-class behind them, and Ezra must keep sprits high as the Fire continue their playoff push.