Photo: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
The word “progress” has been used frequently following the last few Chicago Fire matches. Their last home match against Atlanta United FC, who currently hold first place for the Supporter Shield, ended in another home loss. In six matches played at Toyota Park so far this season, the Fire have only managed to collect a total of four points out of a possible eighteen. As frustrating as this is for fans, progress is a term you could justifiably use to describe this team.
When looking at the Fire’s last four games compared to the start of the season, their attack has become stronger as a unit. Atlanta United defender Michael Parkhurst said in his post-match interview, “They pressed us pretty well. They made it difficult for us. We didn’t take advantage of one-on-one’s, but they [Chicago Fire] did go one-on-one against us.” Chicago was persistent with their attack, using the the flanks to gain one-on-one opportunities with Atlanta goalkeeper, Brad Guzan. Unfortunately, Guzan was able to keep his team on top with a few spectacular saves.
Tata Martino, head coach of Atlanta United, commented on the competitiveness of their opponents, “It was very even in the first half. Then we had a very good 18 to 20 minutes in the second half that allowed us to win the game.”
Chicago was pressing Atlanta for most of the first half, but only maintained 38% possession. From the final ten minutes of the first half to the second half’s first fifteen minutes, Atlanta took control of the match. They saw an opportunity to strike and took a 2-0 lead. The Fire had a much better attack in the second half, finishing the match with a total of 50% possession and 14 shots (four more than Atlanta). Chicago cut Atlanta’s lead in half but still came up short: Final score 2-1, Atlanta.
Chicago has seen improvement despite major players sitting out due to injury: Jon Bakero (right ankle injury), Michael de Leeuw (left ACL reconstruction), Luis Solignac (left Quad Injury), and Djordje Mihailovic (right ACL Reconstruction). Although their options on the field are limited, we’ve been able to see players like Collier, Campos, and Mo Adams make the most of their opportunity.
So, are we seeing signs of progress with this roster? Yes, both on and off the field. The Fire, however, will not be able to truly compete unless they bring in some reinforcements. The injuries have left holes that are too big to immediately recover from. There have been rumors of players like Fernando Torres and Iker Casillas being possible additions to the team this summer.
Wednesday, May 9th, the Fire will be defending Toyota Park against the Montreal Impact, where they will be looking for their second home win of the season. Will we see a Fire team that continues to show “progress?” Or a team that can put a full 90 minutes together to get the win?
We will find out tonight.