Javier Casas, Jr. also made his professional debut in the loss
If you’re a struggling MLS team in need of a win, lately there seems to be an easy solution: Play a game against the Chicago Fire.
For the fourth straight week, the Fire have played a team needing a victory—Atlanta United, the New York Red Bulls, and the Philadelphia Union were all winless when they met Chicago, and D.C. United had lost three in a row, and were absolutely decimated by injuries. And for the fourth straight week, the Fire came away losers—this time 1-0 at Audi Field on Thursday night off a goal by Edison Flores.
In the seventh minute, the Peruvian midfielder was left unmarked in the six-yard box by the Fire’s defense, and forward Adrien Perez found him for the goal. Fire centerback Francisco Calvo stepped to Perez and was caught in no-man’s land, and left back Miguel Navarro was ball watching and lost track of Flores.
“Those are things that happen during a game,” Navarro said after the match, through a translator. “We weren’t paying attention, defensively, for a moment, and unfortunately they were able to capitalize on that.”
Fire Designated Player Gaston Gimenez had an abysmal first half, and came off at halftime for Javier Casas, Jr., who made his professional debut. Fire head coach Raphael Wicky said that Gimenez suffered an injury to a gluteal muscle at some point during the match, and praised Casas for stepping up in his place.
“Javi struggled a little bit in the first five, ten minutes, which is normal, first time playing in a competitive game, but he actually became much better and better,” Wicky said. “Javi’s game was promising.”
There was another big bright spot for Chicago. Brian Gutierrez, 17, got his first career MLS start, becoming the youngest Homegrown to start for the Fire, and the third-youngest player period, behind only Craig Capano and DaMarcus Beasley.
“I think he did really well,” Wicky said. “He was courageous. He wasn’t scared. He showed his talent, his quality, on the ball… I think if he keeps working hard, and I told him this as well, that was the first start of many in his career.”
For Chicago, this is the fourth loss in a row, the 11th straight match without a victory, and the last road victory remains an October 2019 win over Orlando City. Under Wicky, the Fire have never won after conceding the first goal. It’s a disastrous stretch for the club on the field, but midfielder Fabian Herbers said the players are still behind Wicky, and believe they can turn this around.
“I don’t have a doubt that anybody on the team is not buying into Rapha’s strategies,” Herbers said. “I fully trust him and fully believe in what he’s trying to implement here in the club.”
To his credit, Wicky is not one to shy away from the criticism. But he believes despite the loss, there were positives.
“It’s very frustrating to lose again, but I think tonight we should have walked away with a point,” Wicky said. “This game gives me a lot of hope, there was a lot of promising things. We created a lot, and from that, I’m 100 percent sure we can build.”
The Fire don’t play again until Saturday, May 22, when they host Inter Miami at Soldier Field (5 p.m. CT, UniMas).
Chicago Fire FC: GK Shuttleworth, D Sekulić, D Omsberg (Herbers 60’), D Calvo ©, D Navarro (D Bornstein 81’), M Pineda, M Giménez (Casas Jr. 46’), M Frankowski, M Medrán, M Gutiérrez (Collier 60’), F Berić (Offor 78’)
Subs not used: GK G. Slonina, D Espinoza, D Kappelhof, M Stojanović
D.C. United: GK Kempin, D Alfaro, D Brillant ©, D Hines-Ike, D Najar, M Moreno, M Nyeman, M Gressel (M Arriola 75’), M Flores (F Kamara 89’), M Skundrich (M Felipe 75’), F Perez (M Asad 85’)
Subs not used: GK Seitz, M Smith, M Paredes