If this were April or May or June, I would say that the Chicago Fire gutted out a scoreless draw on the road in a notoriously difficult place to play. I’d say that it was a choppy affair, but a hard-fought game that could have gone either way. I’d praise the toughness of this team and their ability to see it out and get a point on the road.
Except this is the last day of August. Opportunities for points are growing shorter and shorter, and a point on the road in a winnable game just isn’t good enough. The Fire now have no margin for error. If they want to make the playoffs, they need to win out. 18 points from their last 6 games. If they wanted any grace from either their trip to Montreal or Columbus on Saturday, they needed to get all three points in Foxboro tonight.
And they had a perfect opportunity to do so. In the 21st minute, a Jhon Duran shot struck Henry Kessler's outstretched arm in the box. Initially, the play kept going, but referee Marcos de Oliveira stopped play and went to the screen and after a minute pointed toward the spot. Chris Mueller stepped to the spot and hit an absolutely horrid penalty right at a falling Djordje Petrovic who smothered it. That killed whatever momentum the Fire had for the rest of the half.
It almost got a lot worse, too. Tommy McNamara blasted a shot into the net, but the ball went over the touchline in the buildup and it was called back for a Fire throw-in. After that, New England got a few more good chances off through the course of the game, but Gaga Slonina proved why he was good enough for Chelsea with some excellent saves, including a fingertip save in the second half that hit off the post. As the game wore on, the Fire settled into two deep blocks of four that bent a bit, but didn’t break, nor did it allow Gustavo Bou and Charles Gil to go off, disrupting and getting in the way of their shots and not giving them space to work.
The Fire also had a few scoring opportunities, mostly at the feat of Jhon Duran. The Fire’s teenage striker used his strength to turn and get in front of his defender on several occasions but his shots were just off target. It was a really good performance from him, and it showed he’s more than just someone who can get in behind defenders. He can play the power game up front.
For all that was good, though, it wasn’t enough. Had one of those Duran chances gone in, or the penalty for that matter, we’d be talking about a team just 3 points off of a playoff spot and in a pretty good place going into the big game in Columbus, Ohio, Instead, we’re writing our eulogies for the season and planning ahead for next year.
The Chicago Fire have one foot in the grave and it feels like Saturday is going to be the funeral.
The Fire next travel to Columbus to play the Crew in the second edition of the Midwest Derby on Saturday.