In the recent past, the Chicago Fire would have lost this game against Charlotte FC. After giving up an early goal, their mental fortitude would have collapsed and they would have given up another, maybe even two more before halftime. But that’s not what happened. Instead, they calmed down, refocused, and played their way back into the game. They took the lead in the first half. And after giving it up right before they switched sides, took it back in the second half. They survived a 20-minute onslaught with a left back and a defensive midfielder at center back and in the end came away with three points on the road.
Before the lineups were revealed, there was a sense of giddiness. Charlotte were playing well for an explanation team, but they’re still an expansion team. Even if their home form has been excellent, the Fire were on a hot streak, and their best players were finally looking comfortable.
Then we found out they were going to be starting zero center backs. We already knew Mauricio Pineda would be deputized at the back once again due to injuries. But when we found out that Fire captain Rafael Czichos wasn’t in the squad due to entering the health and safety protocol a sense of unease hit the Chicago Fire community. That feeling turned out to be correct.
Charlotte scored in the first 25 seconds. A poor giveaway by Miguel Navarro after being pressed to his own endline was crossed onto the head of Yordy Reyna over a jumping Pineda and into the back of the net.
After that, though? It was all Fire. They dominated possession and controlled the tempo, just as they should have. The Fire midfield hardly let Charlotte get a word in edgewise and created several scoring opportunities. They eventually broke after 20 minutes. A Gaston Gimen effort from long range was saved by the keeper, but the rebound went right to Kacper Przybylko who pounded it under the crossbar and into the roof of the net.
They would then go ahead 2-0 with a goal from Federico Navarro. After some amazing passing around the midfield, a Jairo Torres would cross a ball to Shaqiri, who headed it down to Fede. Fede then blasted it past the goalkeeper and the Fire were ahead after giving up a goal in the first minute of the game.
They would then give up an unbelievably Fire goal. A Fede deflection was recovered by Charlotte and Reyna put it into the box. The MLS match center says that new DP signing Karol Sqiderski put it into the back of the net, and that may be true. But both Mauricio Pinedand a Miguel Navarro should have been able to deal with it, and it may have even touched Pineda last before it crossed.
This was also a moment where Fire teams of old would crumble. They had come back just to give up the lead again. But in the 51st minute the Fire’big-timeme transfers showed up in a big moment. Xherdan Shaqiri hit a one-time ball something like 40 yards on a diagonal righontoto Przybvylko’s foot. He then put the Chris Paul Killer Crossover on Christian Fuchs and tucked the ball into the far corner with his left foot from the top of the box. 3-2.
From there, The Fire had to endure all the pressure Charlotte could muster, but for all of it they put on, they managed just two shots in the second half. One in the 79th and one in the 83rd. After 5 added minutes of stoppage time, the Fire are flying back out of North Carolina 3 points richer and above the playoff line.
This was a tremendous win for the Fire, and maybe a sign that thself-sabotagege, while not gone, can be overcome. This was the first time they’ve won two road games in a row since 2013, and istretcheded their unbeaten run to five games, and of those five, they’ve won four. It doesn’t get any easier going forward. In fact, coming up is their hardest stretch of games of the season. All of them are against Eastern Conference opposition, and all but the next two are fighting them for playoff spots. But After tonight, there’s a feeling that just maybe, they can do this.
The Chicago Fire next play Saturday against the Union in Philidelphia,