A second scoreless draw in as many games is not really what the doctor ordered as far as the playoff race is concerned. But Saturday afternoon was much less frustrating than on Wednesday. The Fire actually had some sustained periods of possession and looked good going forward at times, even though they didn’t amount to much, and the defense was just as good. While Gaga Slonina made 9 saves, only two or three really tested the 18-year-old wunderkind. The thing that really hurt the Fire again on this night was something that they really haven’t had a lot of trouble with up until the last few weeks; injuries. Specifically, injuries to their creative players have been the killer down the stretch.
In the 33rd minute, another one went down and had to be subbed off. This time, it was Biran Gutierrez, and the timing couldn’t have been worse. The Fire were just starting to get into a bit of a rhythm offensively and Guti was just starting to find some space in the middle of the park. This is yet another blow to a Fire midfield who have lost almost all their starting midfielders in some form or fashion over the last month,
Ezra’s solution was one that he would never do otherwise and one I personally have been advocating for weeks. Jhon Duran and Kacper Przybylko on the field at the same time. It was shaky for a while as if they haven’t played together (which, why would they practice that) But eventually they started going along well and put together some good attacks in the second half.
That all came to a stop when Xherdan Shaqiri came into the game. Upon his entrance, the game ground to a halt for the Fire and it was all crew for the last 20 minutes or so. A lot has been said about the Swiss DP’s addition to the Fire squad this season and despite some good moments, he’s largely been underwhelming this year. He’s a very good player and you can see his quality on the ball. But the problem is that he has a tendency to disappear at times throughout the match. Aside from a good moment on a counterattack, he was largely anonymous in his time on the pitch.
Meanwhile the defense is good enough again. They were able to contain Columbus’s dangerous attack enough to force shots into windows where Gaga could save them. Boris Sekulic and Miguel Navarro especally deserve recognition for their performances. Both Fullbacks stepped up to their opposition (sometimes literally) and frustrated the heck out of Columbus’s wingers. Sekulic had his best game as far as 1v1 defending went, stopping Cucho Hernandez on multiple occasions.
In the end, though, 0-0 draws are not going to cut it. The silver lining is they’re not losing. The two points picked up on the road keep them nominally in the playoff race, but the Fire are running out of time. There are now just five games left in the season and they need to win out without draws. Honestly, I don’t think playoffs are realistically possible.
The Fire are next in action Saturday against Inter Miami at SeatGeek Stadium.