After last week’s game loss to the Philadelphia Union, the Fire found themselves with two of last week’s starters suspended and lots of question marks floating around the availability of designated player Xherdan Shaqiri following his request to be substituted over injury concerns. Facing former wooden-spoon rivals turned Supporters Shield contenders FC Cincinnati, the Fire looked to get their first win of the season on a historically cold night in Chicago and looked like they would for most of this match. The team lined up in their typical 4-2-3-1 after potential plans to run back last week’s 5-3-2 were ruined after a total of five starting candidates became unavailable due to either injury or suspension. The Fire would concede eight minutes into the game but would come up 3-1 before ultimately capitulating in the most Fire fashion ever by conceding two goals after the 80th minute to end the match as a 3-3 draw.
Lineup: Brady; Souquet (Burks 87’), Terán, Czichos, M. Navarro (Dean 69’); Pineda, Giménez; Haile-Selassie (Monis 81’), Gutiérrez, Mueller; Przybyłko
Chris Brady (7) – When a team concedes three goals, naturally it is the defense that gets looked at first. Despite that, Brady had another positive performance in the net by making six saves in total. With every goal scored by Cincinnati on the night, there was never really much that Brady could have done to stop any of them, and he kept the Fire in the game on numerous occasions.
Arnaud Souquet (5.5) – It has been a tough start to life in Major League Soccer for Arnaud Souquet. Credit is due for providing an assist for Chris Mueller to score his first goal this season for the Fire, but besides that, the right-back’s overall performance was poor. Defensively, Souquet made zero tackles and won zero of his six engaged duels. Souquet did intercept the ball which would then lead to the team’s third goal, but the other stats speak for themselves. Offensively, Souquet was again hot and cold with his passing. He continues to make the attacking right runs, but his creative quality in the attacking half continues to struggle, which was shown when the right-back dribbled out of bounds on more than one occasion. Souquet was substituted in the 88th minute for Kendall Burks.
Carlos Terán (6.5) – On the ground, Carlos Terán had another quality game. His only notable error (on the floor) was potentially giving Brandon Vázquez too much time to make the decision to pass the ball to Júnior Moreno for the game’s opener, but allowing that goal was a collective team failure. In the air was where Terán struggled the most, consistently giving Cincinnati the opportunities to get a head onto a crossed ball or such. It was Terán’s marked man of Sergio Santos who would score FCC’s second goal of the night after Lucho Acosta floated a ball over the defender’s head from distance, but not too much should be taken out of that as the pass for the assist was simply stunning to watch. The Colombian did not perform badly, it’s just that this season so far we have seen him play better.
Rafael Czichos (7) – One of these nights we will see Rafael Czichos score an early goal. We’ve seen the team captain continually get on the end of balls provided right in front of opposition goalkeepers, however, a goal still has not come from these opportunities. Rafa did get on the scoresheet though, notching a penalty in the 46th minute won by Chris Mueller. Defensively, Czichos was a stalwart once more, but could have done more to stop Sergio Santos from getting a shot off against Chris Brady, as it would then lead to an FCC corner, with this run of play concluding with an equalizer in the 87th minute. One issue that is team-wide is discipline and mentality, and as Czichos is the club captain, fans would like to see him help get this team a hold of themselves, but one man can only do so much.
Miguel Ángel Navarro (5) – With Alonso Aceves arriving in Chicago during the week, this is not the performance Miguel Navarro should have provided to signify his desire or deservedness to remain the Fire’s first-choice left back. Navarro was dispossessed several times and did little to adequately defend against an FCC attack that was tame for the majority of the game. FC Cincinnati would score the opener off of a deflection from Navarro’s leg, and they could have easily scored another in the 18th minute when Navarro lost the ball just outside of the box where forward Brandon Vázquez would have a shot but narrowly nail the post. Cincinnati scored in the 49th minute after Miguel Navarro went up for a header and completely missed it, hitting the ground looking for a foul that did not happen in the process, where FCC would scoop the ball up from the chaos and bury it in the net. With help from VAR, it was found that Brenner infringed upon the play from an offsides position and the goal was called back. With Cincinnati beginning to claw back into the match, Navarro would be issued a yellow card in the 66th minute, followed up with a substitution by Jonathan Dean three minutes later.
Gastón Giménez (4.5) – In a game where both players in the Fire’s midfield pivot struggled, Gastón was worse compared to Mauricio Pineda due to his influence in all of Cincinnati’s goals. Giménez and Pineda were both staggered and unable to properly step to the shot of Junior Moreno which would land in the back of the net, but this would be brushed off quickly. The Paraguayan would then have a decent first half, with a mentionable looped pass to Brian Gutierréz who would then assist Kacper Pryzbyłko, but the midfielder overall did not retain possession well and was individually at fault for the third Cincinnati goal as well. Álvaro Barreal would send in a poor corner kick to the back post which would fall directly to Gastón, who would clear it directly into the feet of Júnior Moreno. Moreno would then equalize. We can talk about Giménez’s lack of pressure on Lucho Acosta for FCC’s second goal too, but enough has been said (and frankly that assist was a beauty). This was a bad performance from Giménez, which is worrisome given how thin the Fire’s midfield depth currently is.
Mauricio Pineda (5.5) – The better of the two defensive midfield partners, Pineda had a relatively poor outing as well. Pineda’s passing quality was slightly lower than in his previous matches, but still higher than a majority of his teammates. Where he struggled a lot was in his defending, as the midfielder engaged in 14 duels but only won 27.3% of them. In a unified error with his partner, Pineda did not close down Junior Moreno fast enough to stop him from having a shot, which would end up in the back of the net for the opening goal of the game. As the Fire got ahead, Pineda did have his moments in connecting play with his teammates, but when FCC came knocking again, Pineda did not do enough to stop them.
Brian Gutiérrez (8) – Getting a start playing as the team’s #10 in the absence of Xherdan Shaqiri, Guti had a wonderful showing against FCC. Gutiérrez was influential throughout the vast majority of the Fire’s attacking play which saw them score 3 goals, with the youngster being credited for an assist to Pryzbyłko on the Fire’s equalizer. Consistently showing his technical flair and passing ability with his sharp dribbling and impressive range of passing, Guti was the Fire’s best player on a night that should have seen them come out with a win. Read about his man-of-the-match performance here.
Chris Mueller (7.5) – After not starting against the Philadelphia Union, Chris Mueller would have a fine performance in a match that saw the Fire consistently string together quality attacking play. Playing on the left, the winger would terrorize Cincinnati center-back Yerson Mosquera, getting the Colombian to foul him in the box in the 43rd minute for a penalty, which would then be converted by Rafael Czichos to make it 2-1 for the Fire. Directly after halftime, Mueller would score with a thunderous finish to increase the score to 3-1. The Schaumburg native did well to be an attacking threat throughout most of the match but did have a few quiet patches.
Maren Haile-Selassie (7) – Getting his first start for the Fire, Haile-Selassie was dangerous playing as the team’s right winger, often linking up well with Brian Gutiérrez to create space and shift around the FC Cincinnati defense. Maren had a few notable goalscoring opportunities, but they were either blocked or sent wide. Overall though, Haile-Selassie had a good performance in his first game as a starter in Major League Starter and was unlucky to not come out with a goal. It should be noted that the winger is credited with an assist for Chris Mueller’s goal, which came as he passed the ball to Arnaud Souquet who would then cross the ball to Mueller for the finish. Haile-Selassie would be substituted off in the 81st minute for Alex Monis.
Kacper Pryzbyłko (6.5) – The Pole would start again up top for one reason or another, but would perform notably better than a majority of his past performances in a Fire jersey. Kacper would score a screamer in the 32nd minute to equalize, and had good holdup play throughout the entire match, even throwing in some dribbling here and there. With Mueller’s goal in the 46th minute, the space which the winger ran into to score was created by the movement of Kacper Pryzbyłko. The forward would also win 66.7% of his duels, and completed 81.5% of his passes. Kacper was shown a yellow card in the 92nd minute due to frustration from the theatrics of FC Cincinnati. Hopefully this performance could signify a turn of fortune for the striker whose future with the club remains cloudy.
Jonathan Dean (6.5) – Being introduced in the 69th minute for Miguel Navarro at left-back, Dean played what was likely the best performance out of any Fire fullback the entire night despite only playing 25ish minutes. Dean made several notable strong tackles and did well in possession. With another solid performance now in the books, Jonathan Dean continues to suggest that his transfer from the USL Championship was a bargain for the Fire.
Alex Monis (6) – Making his season debut, Alex Monis would be subbed on for Haile-Selassie in the 81st minute. Unfortunately, this was around the time when Cincinnati would take the game back for themselves, and the Fire were unable to get Monis involved in any substantial attacking play.
Kendall Burks (N/A) – After a solid showing when he started against the Philadelphia Union, Kendall Burks was restricted to a substitute appearance in the 88th minute, only racking in 6 minutes after entering play and ultimately not having enough time to do anything of note.
Ezra Hendrickson (6) – Man. I want to praise Ezra for starting Guti as the attacking midfielder and for enabling some attacking fluidity in a team that has notably lacked it for so long. Three goals AFTER conceding in the 8th minute is an impressive turnaround, and if the team saw the game through and came out as the winners, then this section would be very different. Looking back to last week, the Fire played well but collapsed due to a lack of discipline from the whole team. This week they did the same exact thing, but in a worse fashion considering the Fire were up by two goals until the last ten minutes of the game. Conceding two goals after the 84th minute with five yellow cards (two after the 90th minute) is unacceptable, but for us Fire fans it is something painfully familiar. When FCC finally got going and started taking the game into their own hands, what tactical changes were made? Only like-for-like subs which don’t change much. Rating a coach is difficult because of both the things they do and the things they do not do, and ultimately the performance on the field comes from the players themselves, but Ezra is not adequately dealing with what he himself can control, and that is problematic.