The Chicago Fire let yet another last-minute lead slip as they stumbled to a 1-1 draw at home against the New York Red Bulls. Kei Kamara’s first-half header was canceled out by a last-minute goal from Cory Burke, meaning that the Fire went home disappointed once again.
Fire Head Coach Ezra Hendrickson rolled out an exciting starting eleven that turned lots of heads. The big story concerned Xherdan Shaqiri, the league’s second-highest-paid player and one of the Fire’s two DPs; the Swiss international was benched for the first time in his MLS career, with 19-year-old homegrown midfielder Brian Gutiérrez getting the nod at the #10 spot. Fede Navarro returned in midfield for his first MLS start since opening day, and Gastón Giménez partnered him in the double pivot, replacing Fabian Herbers. The rest of the lineup was also full strength, with Miguel Ángel Navarro returning at left back and Maren Haile-Selassie receiving another opportunity in his eighth successive start.
Unlike most Fire games this season, the showdown at Soldier Field got off to a quick start. Just four minutes in, a deflected clearance from Carlos Terán presented a one-on-one opportunity for Tom Barlow, but Chris Brady was equal to it, and made a phenomenal save to keep the game level. Center back Rafa Czichos, Terán’s partner, received a fourth-minute yellow card for a preventable challenge, which would impact his effectiveness for the entirety of the match.
The Fire’s problems at center back continued a half hour later when Terán was forced off with an injury. The Colombian has had a great start to the season and has made the starting job his own, earning a new four-year contract earlier today. No natural center backs were named to the bench, so defensive midfielder Mauricio Pineda was introduced in his place. At that same moment, Red Bull searched for a penalty when Elias Manoel went down by way of Czichos, but VAR did not award the foul. It was a lucky break for the Fire, and they would make it count.
Mere moments later, the Fire launched a dynamic counter-attack, and less than a minute of play after they were spared of facing a penalty kick, Arnaud Souquet’s cross found the head of Kei Kamara to give the Fire the lead. The match was Kamara’s 399th MLS appearance, and the goal was, remarkably, his 143rd in MLS. The legendary center forward is now just two behind the great Landon Donovan in the all-time charts.
Despite a few scary moments, the Fire ended the first half playing some excellent soccer. The passes were flowing freely as the home team moved up and down the field with ease. Despite the stellar play, which did continue into the beginning of the second half, finding a second goal was not so simple. There were a few occasions in which Chris Mueller and Kamara couldn’t make the best decisions in the final third, and while Gutiérrez and Haile-Selassie did create opportunities, the Fire were missing incisiveness in front of goal.
After being benched for the first time since arriving in Chicago, Shaqiri was brought on as a second-half substitute in the 73rd minute. Despite his pedigree and impressive résumé in Europe and on the global stage, he had a difficult told finding a foothold in the game, and struggled after coming on for the final 20 minutes.
It was a few changes from Hendrickson that ultimately cost the team the game. Extremely defensive subs were made, with full backs Alonso Aceves and Jonathan Dean brought on as wingers, effectively ceding all offense for the last 20 minutes. The Fire gave up any attempts at going for a second goal, and that proved to be a terrible mistake.
Red Bulls substitute Cory Burke, who has scored against the Fire more times than any player not named Kei Kamara, won a header inside the box as the game entered stoppage time. It was enough to steal a point for New York, and sent the Fire home with just one point.
Right when things seemed to be looking up for the Fire, it all fell apart yet again. This team has had so many great moments this season, but they’ve dropped so many points from advantageous positions, and it has hurt the team time and time again. At the end of the day, Hendrickson’s team once again proved to be like potatoes, not eggs, in boiling water, and he has another week to figure out how to fix it.
The Fire will travel to Nashville for their next match on Saturday at 7:30 PM.