The goals had to stop eventually.
After numerous high-scoring matches in recent weeks, the Chicago Fire had to settle for a stale 0-0 draw with Toronto FC, as they played their Canadian opposition to a defensive stalemate at BMO Field. Neither team could ever catch much momentum as the Men in Red opened their road trip with just a point.
Head Coach Frank Klopas named a similar starting lineup to the one that drew the New England Revolution 3-3 on the road. Sticking with the 3-4-2-1 formation, which has been effective since it was first introduced against Austin FC in the U.S. Open Cup, Maren Haile-Selassie slotted in as a right wingback, with Miguel Ángel Navarro on the other side. Rafa Czichos came back into the lineup at center back, replacing Mauricio Pineda (concussion), and Arnaud Souquet returned to the team at right center back with Kendall Burks on the left side. The efficient pairing of Fede Navarro and Gastón Giménez made up the heart of midfield, with Xherdan Shaqiri and Georgios Koutsias floating in behind Kei Kamara up top.
The story of the first half was defined by the Fire’s goalkeepers for both the right and wrong reasons. Chris Brady, 19, has started every game since Matchday 3 and was once again given the nod between the sticks, and he had a busy start to the game. One of Toronto’s two star Italian DPs, Federico Bernardeschi, returning to the lineup after missing the previous match through coach-imposed suspension, provided the best chance of the first half when he rinsed Burks in the penalty box, but Brady made a huge save, showcasing his excellent reflexes and shot-stopping.
A few minutes later, he was called into action again, when Kosi Thompson attempted a header from inside the penalty box. Brady again made the save, but while trying to collect the rebound, his head crossed paths with the knee of DeAndre Kerr, which led to a lengthy stoppage. After a decent amount of blood was spilled, the goalkeeper was taken off with a bandage around his forehead, and he had to come off with a concussion substitution. He was replaced by backup Spencer Richey.
Though the Fire did have a few shaky moments defensively, they sustained the pressure from Toronto well. Further attempts from Thompson and Kahkeele Marshall-Rutty drew saves from Richey, who looked comfortable coming into the game after strong performances in the Open Cup this season. The visitors entered the half still level, 0-0.
Toronto’s control continued into the second half, though things did shift a little bit for the Fire with the introduction of Brian Gutiérrez as a halftime substitute for Georgios Koutsias. Kamara was able to generate one change in the 49th minute from nothing when a shot from distance deflected off of Matt Hedges and drew a good save from former-Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson, but that was about it in terms of his team’s chance-creation during that period of the game.
Unfortunately for both teams needing a win, the game never caught a rhythm in the second half. The hosts were comfortable holding onto possession but took very few risks, while the Fire seemed couldn’t find space on the ball going forward and struggled to create chances. The game did open up somewhat in the final 10 minutes, with both coaches willing to take more liberties, but each time there seemed to be some energy injected into the game, there was some sort of a stoppage.
The game’s energy fizzled out, and it ended in a 0-0 draw. Neither set of players will walk away too pleased with the result, but may find consolation in the fact that at the very least, they gained a point in the standings. For Klopas’ team, the head injury to Brady is certainly a concern, but the defensive solidity even in the absence of Carlos Terán and Mauricio Pineda is a positive takeaway. With a compact schedule, though, there’s little time to dwell on the shortcoming, and the Men in Red will now continue their roadtrip with another result as they head straight to Cincinnati ahead of their next match.
The Fire will play FC Cincinnati on Saturday, with kickoff at 6:30 CT at TQL Stadium.