It was another rough night at the office for the Chicago Fire as they returned to Bridgeview to face defending MLS Cup champion NYCFC. They fell to a 2-0 defeat, with a lackluster performance throughout the entire team. An unstoppable shot from Gabriel Pereira gave New York City the lead in the first half, and a goal from Santiago Rodríguez less than sixty seconds into the second half doubled the advantage.
Starting Lineup (left to right): Slonina; M. Navarro, Czichos, Terán (Gutiérrez 68’), Sekulić; Pineda (Herbers 51’), F. Navarro; Mueller (Bezerra 78’), Shaqiri, Torres; Przybyłko (Durán 51’)
Gaga Slonina (7) — With three saves on the night, the Fire’s number one put in a respectable performance despite the result. Neither goal was particularly his fault, especially the first one, a rocket into the top right corner of the goal. His passing out of the back was also solid, and he showed maturity when pressured with the ball at his feet in front of goal.
Miguel Ángel Navarro (5.5) — It was a very interesting game for Miguel Navarro. He failed to make much of an impact going forward in the first half, and only completed 1/6 crosses in the match. He was then asked to play as a left center back for the final 25 minutes of the game, a role he had never played for the Fire before. Navarro only won three of his seven duels and was ultimately lucky to avoid receiving a second yellow card late in the second half.
Rafa Czichos (4.5) — Czichos had a difficult afternoon, headlined by a giveaway that directly led to NYCFC’s second goal. It could be debated whether or not it should have been a foul, but nonetheless, the ball wound up in the back of Slonina’s net, and Czichos was largely responsible. His passing was also not at its best, and couldn’t manage to get any balls on target aerially from set pieces. As the captain and leader of the team, he will have to ensure that the squad remains focused as they reground ahead of next week’s match against Montréal.
Carlos Terán (6.5) — Terán was pretty decent in his outing, but truth be told, he should not have been playing. His recovery from injury was undoubtedly rushed, and from the moment he stepped on the field, he already looked like he was not moving with his usual energy. It should have come as no surprise that a not-fully-fit Terán was forced off by injury in the second half. It should be said that even when he was not at his best physically, Terán still had a respectable showing, making 4 recoveries and 4 interceptions.
Boris Sekulić (6) — From a defensive standpoint, Sekulić did a reasonable job of keeping the attackers quiet on his side of the defense. However, his most significant limitation has always been his minimal production offensively, and that was true again against New York City. Like Miguel Navarro, Boki was asked to play on the side of a back three for the final 25 minutes, a role he has played before but still something unfamiliar this season.
Mauricio Pineda (6.5) — Pineda was not that bad in the middle of the park and connected play relatively well as a part of the double pivot alongside Fede Navarro. Then, he was inexplicably substituted right after halftime for Fabian Herbers for, as it turned out, tactical reasons. The decision would prove to bite Ezra Hendrickson just a few minutes later when Carlos Terán went down hurt, as the next man up at center back, Pineda, was already off the pitch. Pineda won 5/8 duels, and completed 26/29 passes.
Fede Navarro (6) — Navarro was a good presence in the midfield, though he did not quite have the creative output connecting midfield to attack that the Fire needed. Defensively, Navarro won 6 ground duels, has 10 recoveries, and made 2 tackles. He could not create any chances going forward, though, and while that is not his primary responsibility next to Gastón Giménez, when Pineda has stepped into that role Navarro has stepped up more in terms of his passing.
Jairo Torres (4.5) — Just about nothing has gone right for Jairo since arriving in Chicago. He was given the nod ahead of Brian Gutiérrez once again and did nothing to prove that he should get another start next weekend. He was anonymous once again, completing only 1/5 crosses and only 1/5 dribbles. There’s no doubt that Torres has talent, and there is still lots of time for him to prove that he can live up to the hype, but he has not done that yet and is still looking for his first goal. It was his first match in which he went the full 90 since arriving in Chicago.
Xherdan Shaqiri (5) — The team often goes as Shaqiri goes, and the Swiss DP was poor tonight. There was a lack of fight from him, and that was reflected in his performance and in certain moments. The most notable was the game’s opening goal, as Pereira found way to much space and Shaqiri just stood and watched. It was probably his worst performance in a Fire shirt.
Chris Mueller (5) — Mueller just didn’t see enough of the ball to make a big impact on the game, and he ultimately had a forgettable match. He was unable to get any shots off, and failed to get the ball under his control from a through ball that provided a half-chance in the first half. He was replaced in the 78th minute, presumably to get a breather.
Kacper Przybyłko (4.5) — In his third game as the starter ahead of Jhon Durán, Przybyłko once again struggled to get production in front of goal. He didn’t get into enough good positions and only managed to get 18 touches before being replaced by Durán in the 51st minute. He did go down with a head injury in the first half, but played on wearing a bandage; hopefully, it was nothing serious, and the fact that he was able to resume the match after that point is a good sign.
Fabian Herbers (6) — Herbers was called upon to play in the double pivot, and he did just what he was asked to do. He was steady, he didn’t make any silly mistakes. However, defensive midfield is still not his best position, and he failed to make a positive impact to help the Fire get back into the game in the second half.
Jhon Durán (6.5) — Durán showed that he can be dangerous with a few positive flashes, though he never challenged Sean Johnson. He was the closest Fire player to scoring in the game, as his 92nd-minute header rattled the underside of the bar and went out. It remains to be seen whether or not he will start next week, but it is very possible.
Brian Gutiérrez (6.5) — Guti came in as a left wing back, a position he had never played in his entire life before tonight. Playing in such a limited and unfamilar role like that, it is impossible to expect him to change the game completely from that position. However, he put in a good shift, kept up his high work rate, and connected some passes.
Victor Bezerra (NR) — It’s great that Bezerra got some minutes, as they have been a long time coming. He came on late and in that time only had one touch, but it is still promising that he managed to get on the field, and there is plenty of time for him to establish himself following a fantastic season in MLS Next Pro.
Ezra Hendrickson (4.5) — The Fire made some wrong decisions against NYCFC, and that cost them points. Hendrickson opted to start Przybyłko and Torres even when they had had poor performances in the previous match. Then, he interestingly opted to go to an unfamiliar 3-5-2 formation as opposed to replacing the injured Terán with unused backup center back Kendall Burks, citing the need to push forward offensively, but in turn leaving a plethora of players in unfamiliar positions. Ezra is a good coach, but he is still developing his skills as a manager. There is plenty of time for him to turn this ship around, but it just wasn’t to be tonight.