The Chicago Fire drew D.C. United at home tonight in a dry 0-0 draw that never really came to life. Wayne Rooney’s United team frustrated the Fire with their conservative approach that never gave the home team much room to operate going forward, and opportunities were few and far between for both teams.
The Fire entered the weekend in good spirits, coming off of their first win of the season last week at Inter Miami. With Xherdan Shaqiri still out with injury, Head Coach Ezra Hendrickson went with an unchanged starting XI. Chris Brady started again in goal, while Jonny Dean kept his spot at left back since Miguel Ángel Navarro was just returning from international duty with Venezuela. The attacking trio of Chris Mueller, Brian Gutiérrez, and Maren Haile-Selassie was also rolled out again after two strong performances in the last two matches. Kacper Przybyłko kept the starting job up top.
It was another chilly night at Soldier Field, and the game got off to a slow start. Neither team really threatened the opposing goal in the first half, though the Fire did have slightly more possession and shots and really never seemed in danger of conceding. The best chance of the first half came in the 28th minute when Przybyłko headed a cross across the box towards Mueller, whose header just missed. Entering the half, D.C. were the happier team, having packed in their defense and prevented the Fire attack from finding much space in the final third.
The momentum flipped in the second half. D.C.’s attacking midfielder, Taxi Fountas, drew a good save from Brady in the goal, and Steve Birnbaum also came close from a glancing header. In the 69th minute, Fountas once again found space in the attacking area, and ripped a shot from 25 years that rattled the woodwork. The Greek DP was proving to be a big threat and was causing all sorts of trouble for the Fire.
With the Fire struggling to gain a foothold in the half as the tempo slowed down, Hendrickson went to the bench and replaced Przybyłko with last week’s game-winner, Kei Kamara. Despite being 38 years old, Kamara has been a much more effective member of the Fire’s attack, looking stronger in aerial duels, combining better with his teammates, and looking more mobile both on and off the ball. However, neither center forward could make an impact in front of goal tonight.
As the match remained goalless while the clock winded down, the Fire found themselves limited with what they could do to change the game in the final minutes. Injuries to DPs Xherdan Shaqiri and Jairo Torres, as well as key midfielder Fede Navarro, meant that Hendrickson had very few options when he turned to the bench. Apart from Kamara, the only substitute he used was Mauricio Pineda, who was brought on in the 83rd minute to reprieve Gastón Giménez, who has been struggling with recent injury troubles, in midfield. While an argument could be made for lack of depth, injuries certainly haven’t helped, since difference-makers from the bench are the deciding factor that win tight games.
The Fire made one dramatic final push for the win in stoppage time. An inch-perfect cross from Brian Gutiérrez met the head of Kei Kamara, who did everything he had to do, but Tyler Miller made an unbelievable stop to prevent Guti and Kamara from combining for a second successive 92nd minute winner. Miller’s save from point-blank range will go down as a contender for save of the year, both for the quality of the save, and the circumstances within the game.
When the referee’s whistle blew for full time, the scoreboard read the same scoreline that it had when the game started: Chicago Fire 0, D.C. United 0. It wasn’t quite the same dramatic collapse from two weeks prior – when the Fire blew a two-goal lead at home to Cincinnati in the last six minutes – but it was still a bad result for the Men in Red. Winning at home to D.C. was a must, and they just couldn’t do enough to get the three points.
The Fire return home to take on Minnesota United at Soldier Field next Saturday at 7:30 PM.