Fielding the most rotated side Fire fans have seen so far this season, getting a result in a stadium that has only seen victories seemed to be asking too much for a team with three league wins this season. With Klopas electing to rotate, that did not stop a bit of tactical tinkering, as the Fire lined up in a 3-4-2-1 one again. Cincinnati dominated the first half, but the Fire put the pressure on during the first 20 minutes of the second half. With both teams using all of their substitutions after halftime, it seemed whoever had better star power was likely to come on out on top. That said, Luciano Acosta scored the game’s lone goal in the 83rd minute to send the Fire packing. Here is a short recap of the Fire’s individual performers.
*Players are listed in the order they lined up, followed by substitutes in the order they appeared
Spencer Richey (6.5) – After coming on for the highly battered Chris Brady in the Fire’s midweek game against Toronto, Richey retained his spot as the aforementioned homegrown was listed as questionable for this match. Returning against his former club, Richey’s lone save was later called offsides, but given as Cincy only had a single shot on target, there wasn’t much the goalkeeper could have done.
Alonso Aceves (7) – Despite generally playing poorly in the minutes he has earned, Aceves started as the team’s left wingback as the recently dutiful Miguel Ángel Navarro was rested. Here, Aceves looks pretty decent on the ball, racking up an 88.2% pass accuracy and 0.15 expected goals and assists. Defensively, Aceves was good, too, winning 80% of his duels.
Kendall Burks (6.5) – Getting his third consecutive start as one of the Fire’s center backs, had a solid game up until he failed to close down Acosta when the Argentine brought down a longball from Santiago Arias and finished from close-range. Burks completed more than 80% of his passes, and looked fairly composed on the ball the entirety of the match.
Wyatt Omsberg (7) – Likely the Fire’s best defender on the night, Omsberg had a solid outing against Cincy. Omsberg looked like a stone wall in this match, as Cincy’s attack rarely got past the defender. With injuries to Mauricio Pineda and Carlos Terán, Omsberg has made a strong case to consistently return to the starting XI as Rafael Czichos’ center-back partner at least in the short term.
Arnaud Souquet (6.5) – One of only two frequent starters to kick off this match, Arnaud Souquet was deputized as the Fire’s third center-back as Fabian Herbers played as the team’s right wingback. Souquet was pretty mediocre, if not worse than usual, in possession, but the Frenchman made up for it in defense, tieing second for most tackles made within the match. Souquet was substituted for Czichos in the 70th minute.
Fabian Herbers (6.5) – Filling in as the team’s right wingback, Herbers, as of late, has just generally been too slow to make any notable attacking impression for the Fire. However, the German’s work rate and defensive desires are notable positives. Herbers should have scored after a whipped cross found him at the back post less than ten yards out from the net, but a whiffed attempt saw nothing come out of it.
Federico Navarro (6.5) – Fede had a somewhat tame performance compared to those of recent, with the midfielder not offering his typical passing range or chemistry with his attacking teammates. Navarro did lead the Fire in tackles and completed 92% of his passes, but that was all in a rather average performance from the Argentinian.
Jairo Torres (6.5) – Originally beginning the match as Navarro’s midfield partner, Jairo Torres didn’t leave much impression playing as a box-to-box number eight and was later moved to play as the Fire’s left-winger. The configuration of moving Georgios Koutsias to striker and Jairo to the frontline was beneficial as these changes allowed the Fire to defend with a much more energetic press, which worked well for a while. Although his preferred position appears to be in the midfield, JT did look much better out wide and given Chris Mueller’s season-ending injury, I expect Torres to get more time out wide for the rest of this campaign.
Georgios Koutsias (6.5) – Playing as the Fire’s left-winger, Koutsias originally did not do much technically out wide but was energetic when he got the ball. A substitution to Kacper Przybyłko saw Koutsias move to the number nine spot, which instantly energized the team’s press led by Koutsias. It looked like a goal was imminent for the Fire, but it did not come from the Greek youth international as he was substituted in the 62nd minute for Kei Kamara.
Kacper Przybyłko (5.5) – Starting in place of the fatigued Kei Kamara, Przybyłko failed to offer any dynamism or attacking threat to test the Cincinnati backline. After a lackadaisical display of buildup play and not really anything else, Przybyłko suffered a head injury right before halftime and thus was substituted out for Gastón Giménez in the 46th minute.
Brian Gutiérrez (6.5) – Returning to the starting XI after beginning the match against Toronto on the sidelines, for pretty much the entire first half of play, Guti looked like the only semi-dangerous player for Chicago. Gutiérrez offered creativity and intensity on the wing, but due to his teammates doing relatively little to support him, Guti ended the night without any accolades and was substituted for Xherdan Shaqiri in the 62nd minute.
Gastón Giménez (6.5) – Subbing on right after halftime for Przybyłko, Giménez originally helped provide a change of tempo for the Fire as they brought the fight to Cincinnati in the second half, but as this pressure ended, Gastón’s influence on the game dwindled down to simply trying to get counter attacks going. Giménez had the highest passing rate for players above 45 minutes played, but that is about all to note.
Xherdan Shaqiri (6.5) – Coming on for Gutiérrez in the 62nd minute, Shaqiri’s recent creativity under Klopas was absent in this match, but that could be the case for a large variety of reasons. Shaq was brought on to revitalize an attack that was quickly growing tired, but that resurgence didn’t occur until it was too late. Overall, it was a performance that will likely be lost in the memory of Shaqiri.
Kei Kamara (6.5) – Swapping with Koutsias in the 62nd minute, Kamara didn’t get the chance to do much other than be forced to bring down the ball in the air from his teammates or get on the end of lofted crosses. With Cincy’s staunch defense, Kamara was kept under wraps and never made the impact desired.
Maren Haile-Selassie (6.5) – Maren came on as a sub for Federico Navarro in the 62nd minute to wrap up the Fire’s trifecta of attacking substitutions. Playing as the Fire’s right-winger, Maren tried to run at and get behind the Cincinnati defense, but much like Kamara, the attacker was adequately dealt with. Haile-Selassie’s moment of the match came when he got in an altercation with aspiring actor Yerson Mosquera, with the Swiss pushing the defender over (the push was extremely light, and Mosquera was clearly going for a swim) and seeing yellow.
Rafael Czichos (6.5) – Rafa Czichios replaced Arnaud Souquet in the 70th minute, likely to add some leadership to the pitch for the Fire and spare Souquet some extra rest. Czichos was uncharacteristically a tad error prone, but being thrown into a match that late as a defender is never easy, especially against a team of Cincinnati’s caliber. Czichos did make a few runs into the box to try and get the Fire ahead, but nothing ever came of this for one reason or another.
Frank Klopas (6.5) – Fielding a heavily rotated side against one of if not the best teams in Major League Soccer really only suggests that Klopas has decided on one of two things; Either he has already accepted defeat and may as well play players with limited minutes so far this season, or focus has shifted towards winning Tuesday’s open-cup match against Houston. It’s the latter. Rotation never really worked well under Ezra Hendrickson, and to be honest, the rotated sides Klopas has run out haven’t done much to be considered stellar, but a 1-0 away loss against Major League Soccer’s Supporter’s Shield frontrunners isn’t too bad. The subs were expected, and that’s about all there was to it in another match that could be symbolized by sandpaper.