The Chicago Fire’s slim playoffs hopes were slashed to effectively zero as they came up short, 3-2, on the road at CF Montréal. The Fire, who were missing half of their starting lineup due to a combination of injuries and suspension, had a promising start to the match, but saw Kei Kamara put in two goals in the opening half hour. A pair of Shaqiri penalties, both won by Jhon Durán, got the Fire on the board, but they sandwiched what turned out to be Zachary Brault-Guillard’s game-winner for the hosts.
Starting Lineup (left to right): Slonina; M. Navarro, Czichos, Terán, Sekulić (Bezerra 87’); Pineda, Bornstein (Casas Jr 80’); Gutiérrez, Shaqiri, Reynolds II (Espinoza 80’); Durán
Gaga Slonina (6) — Despite his great form, Gaga was not at his best tonight. Though the defense and midfield often gave the Montréal attackers too much space in front of goal, at least one of the goals was saveable, and he had a few moments in the second half where he was indecisive coming off of his line. Now, he just has three more games in a Fire shirt before he will join Chelsea on January 1st.
Miguel Ángel Navarro (5.5) — Navarro was a good attacking presence in this game, but he lacked the end product that is necessary and couldn’t connect any crosses. He was also responsible defensively for the third Montréal goal, as he lost his man and allowed Brault-Guillard to advance into open space and score.
Rafa Czichos (5.5) — The Fire were a bit of a mess defensively in key moments during the first half, and as the leader of the back line Czichos will have to take responsibility for that. The most glaring moment came in the 21st minute, where between Czichos and Sekulić, Kei Kamara was left totally unmarked in the 18-yard box; a fatal mistake given that he is the third highest all-time scorer in MLS. Czichos whiffed on an opportunity to score down the other end in the first half as well, but his passing was reliable for the most part.
Carlos Terán (6) — Terán had a relatively indifferent game tonight. He wasn’t responsible for any of the goals, but he didn’t do anything, in particular, to stand out, either. The Colombian had 2 blocks, 4 clearances, and 7 recoveries.
Boris Sekulić (6) — The Slovakian right back has been a reliable and steady presence for the Fire this season, and for the most part, he was alright in Montréal. As previously mentioned, he had that lapse in communication in the first half, which left Kei Kamara wide open in front of goal, but apart from that, he was solid defensively.
Mauricio Pineda (6) — Playing through illness is never ideal, but with a plethora of midfielders unavailable, that’s exactly what Pineda had to do tonight. Pineda didn’t see too much of the ball, recording 36 touches across the 90 minutes, but for the most part, he did what he had to do defensively when called upon.
Jonathan Bornstein (4.5) — It feels harsh to give Bornstein such a low rating when he was playing in a totally unnatural position. The 37-year-old left-back was deployed as a central midfielder, lining up in arguably the most difficult position on the field against one of the top attacking teams in MLS. Naturally, it didn’t go very well, and he had two sloppy giveaways in the middle, which directly led to Montréal goals. While the Fire would certainly benefit from keeping Bornstein around as he is a valuable member of the squad, his minutes on the field should absolutely be given in his preferred position.
Brian Gutiérrez (6.5) — Guti was relatively dangerous in this game, but was unable to imprint his name on the scoresheet. He had one big opportunity to get on the end of an Andre Reynolds cross, but he couldn’t convert in front of goal. Guti did find the back of the net with a fantastic hit from inside the box near the end of the first half, but a foul by Jhon Durán immediately prior meant that it wouldn’t count.
Xherdan Shaqiri (7) — Shaqiri scored two goals tonight and recorded a brace — his first in a Fire shirt — but was he actually that good? Both goals came from the penalty spot, and apart from the conversions, he had little impact on the game. Shaqiri only created one chance throughout the 90 minutes, and didn’t take a single shot apart from the two penalties. Of Shaqiri’s 7 goals this season, just 3 have come from open play.
Andre Reynolds II (6.5) — A natural full-back, Reynolds is growing into his role as a winger. His movement has improved, and he was able to connect a fair number of passes. With all of that being said, this should by no means be any sort of long-term solution. Reynolds should continue his growth as a full back, where he could be more valuable for the Fire for years to come.
Jhon Durán (8) — While Shaqiri will get the plaudits thanks to his goals, Durán was the real star of the game. He was a nightmare for Montréal defenders, and he made life very difficult for his opponents. They were unable to handle him, so much so that he drew two penalties, thus making him responsible for both Fire goals. He also got in behind the defense more than once, and had two other shots which he could not get on target. Durán is an incredibly talented young player, and if he is willing to stay, the Fire should do what they can to hold onto him.
Jhon Espinoza (NR) — Espinoza made a brief cameo and had 4 touches. There isn’t much to say about it other than he did nothing to change the fact that he inspires no confidence as a long-term player for the Fire,
Javi Casas Jr (6) — A case could be made that Javi Casas should have started over Bornstein, and in 10 minutes at the end he didn’t have enough time to prove very much. Casas, along with Sergio Oregel, has been performing well for Chicago Fire II, and despite being rested this past weekend from MLS Next Pro, the first team staff doesn’t seem to trust them yet.
Victor Bezerra (NR) — Bezerra has to be knocking on the door of more MLS minutes, and he has made a few cameos lately, thanks to good performances for the second team. He didn’t have enough time to make an impact tonight, though, and had 2 touches.
Ezra Hendrickson (6) — Ezra made some bold decisions with his team selection, and they did not pay off. He also was slow to make changes, and the first substitutes weren’t introduced until the 80th minute. With that being said, the Fire were able to compete with a top team in the East, so it wasn’t all bad. There is just little hope left for this season, and it has now reached the point where decisions should start being geared towards 2023.