When you sign a big-time designated player to a historically big contract, you expect certain things. You expect them to be a difference maker on the pitch, taking control of games and helping the team win. You expect leadership. They’ve played at the highest level against the best teams and can impart the wisdom of those experiences to other players, making them better. What you do not expect is standing around while the opponent makes a 20-yard run and scores a goal. If that seems super specific to you, it’s because that’s exactly how the Chicago Fire and Xherdan Shaqiri gave up the first goal in their 2-1 loss to NYCFC.
In the 16th minute, The ball found its way into the Fire’s right corner. The Fire’s defense was in a good position. The three runners at the top of the box were all covered and a cross into the penalty area would probably be covered well. But out of nowhere, Gabriel Pereira showed up at the top of the box and blasted the ball into the top corner.
While that was the most infuriating moment of the match, it was just a snapshot of how poor the Fire played. They were second best the whole match, and at times, looked disinterested and frustrated. There should be some credit going toward City. The Pigeons played in a tight low block— preventing the Fire from getting any forward momentum and frustrating the central midfielders.
The second goal was another infuriating moment, but not because of the Fire really, although they shouldn’t have been in the position they were in. A pass across the box ended up on the foot of captain Rafael Czichos who seemingly lost the ball to a pressing Santiago Rodríguez. However, both in real-time and on replay, it was clear that he did so because he stepped on Rafa Czichos’ foot. The play should have been overturned by VAR, but referee Rosendo Mendoza and VAR official Ramy Touchan either decided that they didn’t care or were just not paying attention because as far as we can tell, it wasn’t even looked at. The game was 2-0 and it was going to stay that way through another listless second half from the Fire.
Things went from bad to worse on the injury front, as it seems like Carlos Teran hurt himself as he had to be substituted off in the 68th minute. The Fire then moved back to a back 3 for the rest of the match, and honestly looked okay. But if Teran is out again for any length of time, the Fire have problems. There’s still time to sign a free agent and they have a senior roster spot open, but there’s been no evidence of a deal getting done. Things are starting to crumble.
By all accounts, this was if not a must-win game, a must-score points game. The Fire now have to get something like two points per game, or close to it, to make the playoffs. Luckily for them, they play every team they’re fighting for a spot. But based on the play of the squad today, they’re not going to rise to the occasion this year. Maybe with another preseason under their belt, they can be the team we think they can be, but for 2022, I’m just not seeing it. Let’s hope they prove me wrong.
The Fire next plays Saturday against CF Montreal in Chicago