Chicago Fire 1, Atlanta United 4.
Things are not as good as they seemed, folks. The Chicago Fire are back to where they’re used to; the bottom of the standings. After ten matches (yes, ten matches already), the Fire have accumulated 10 points and find themselves bottom of the East, level on points with Inter Miami. They are the lowest-scoring side that has played ten games, and they haven’t kept a clean sheet since April 16th.
This weekend’s match was the latest example of a clear decline in form from this team. None of the good things from their displays in the opening weeks were on show against Atlanta. The lack of squad depth really showed in this game. And without Czichos, this backline looks lost.
Anyway, here is my biggest takeaway and other thoughts on the match against Atlanta United. Starting with the player ratings:
- G. Slonina // 5
- B. Sekulic // 7
- J. Espinoza (sub) // 5
- W. Omsberg // 6
- C.Teran // 3
- M. Navarro // 5
- M. Pineda // 5
- F. Navarro // 5
- S. Ivanov // 3
- F. Herbers (sub) // 5
- X. Shaqiri // 7
- B. Gutierrez // 6
- C. Mueller (sub) // 8
- C. Offor // 6
Some of These Players Had us Fooled
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that some of these Georg Heitz signings have been real busts. Stanislav Ivanov continues to be a shell of the forward we thought he would be. I don’t think there is another player on this team that squanders as many chances as he does. Carlos Teran was just plain awful against Atlanta. I couldn’t believe what I saw at times while watching him. I think he’s a really great kid, but he was either playing with an injury in that match, or he demonstrated that he simply can’t be a reliable center-back option for this team. I have a lot of patience for both Federico Navarro and Mauricio Pineda, but they were both once again invisible.
Over the last couple of matches, those two have allowed opposition players to waltz through the center of the pitch. Not just them; the entire midfield play is nonexistent for this team. The clearest example of this was the third Atlanta United goal, where Atlanta was able to pass the ball directly through the middle of the field from back to front. A straight line from the goalkeeper to the goal. Pineda and Navarro were left in the dust on the 2nd pass of the sequence because they were in the opposition third for some reason. Teran was miles out of position. Other players couldn’t have been bothered to try and make up for their teammates’ shortcomings. It was just a really terrible way to concede a goal.
Chinoso Offor once again showed that he’s not an MLS caliber striker despite his goal. Half the time, he plays like he’s stepped foot on a pitch for the first time ever. He looks lost, at times overwhelmed, and often confused about what his job is. The only bright spot from the match is that Shaqiri picked up an assist. His perfect low ball across the face of goal into Offor for an easy tap-in was exactly the type of thing he’s been brought in for.
Gabriel Slonina’s Poor Performance
The biggest worry from the match has to be Gabriel Slonina’s poor performance. It was the first game since a couple of his first few appearances that I thought to myself, “Wow, he’s really not doing well here.” The Ronaldo Cisneros hattrick, despite really bad defending, was preventable.
All three goals were really soft goals to give up and types of shots that Gabe has easily dealt with in the past. The first goal was shot directly at him. Honestly, he could have caught it. Pushing it upwards and over the bar was the bare minimum he could have done there, but he didn’t do any of the above, and the ball easily flew into the net as he sort of dropped his body to the ground.
Goal number two, he palms directly into the center of the box, where Cisneros is waiting as any good striker would. Slonina needed to put a stronger hand on that and then fall right on top of the ball in that situation, but he made a very rookie mistake, and Atlanta retook the lead. And goal number three to seal the hattrick, his defense put him into a one-on-one which is never an easy task. But he shows Cisneros the advantage by hesitating, committing at the wrong time, and letting him step around and finish into an open net. It’s nothing to panic about, but hopefully, he picks his head up and keeps these sorts of performances to a minimum.
Welcome Chris Mueller
And lastly, I want to welcome Chris Mueller to the club and say that I was very impressed with his cameo. He was the Fire’s best player on the night. He had the best scoring chances, and his energy and movement were really fun to watch. Hopefully, he is a player that can pick up this offense by the scruff of the neck and get the team scoring goals. If he plays as he did against Atlanta, then I have no doubts he can be a gamechanger.
I think the addition of both him and Jairo Torres are very positive moves for the club. I’d like to see them both feature as wingers for us, even though Mueller can play striker and Torres can play in central midfield. If they can add another winger and another striker in the summer window along with need depth and competitive options in the back, playoffs are not out of the question.
It’s too early in the season to start panicking, but we are getting to that point. Ten games mean we’re just about a third of the way through the seasons. This is when the good teams start to separate from the bad teams, and if the Fire players aren’t careful, they will find themselves in the latter group once again. The four-point gap to the playoff line is not a huge one, but results need to start happening now.
Every game is significantly more important now that we’ve had all these blunders recently. Attaining one point a game indicates that you’re probably an average side at best. To be safe, teams looking to make playoffs should strive for an average of 1.3-1.5 points per game, with teams higher up the table averaging 2+.
The Fire isn’t the worst team in the league by any stretch, but they need to start proving they are one of the better ones.
Featured Image: Mike Dinovo/USA TODAY Sports