After their worst start in club history, the Chicago Fire have finally picked up their first win of the season at home against Inter Miami. The 1-0 win was a fair result, although maybe not quite in the way that the Fire should’ve won it. Let’s look at the game itself.
The Chicago Fire sat in the driver’s seat for almost the entire game, starting in the 3rd minute when Fabian Herbers put an outside-the-box blast over the bar. In the 11th minute, Robert Beric found an open Przemyslaw Frankowski in the box, but Frankowski can’t get a good strike on it. Frankowski got another chance in the 21st minute, but also smacked that one off the corner of the post.
In the second half, Robert Beric found himself wide open in the box around the 50th minute, but once again shot it straight at the keeper. There was some hope for Inter Miami in the 65th minute when it appeared that Miguel Navarro had handled the ball in the box, but somehow the ball only hit his shoulder. Later, in the 69th minute, the Chicago Fire finally broke through in the scoring. After Fabian Herbers drew a foul outside the box, Luka Stojanovic hit an awkward shot to the bottom corner of the goal. John McCarthy judged the ball correctly, but the top-spin carried it over his hands and into the net. That was the only goal of the game.
Here’s three things we learned from the Fire’s first win of the season.
Defense Not Required
One of my main gripes over the course of the season with the Chicago Fire has been that the Fire seem to have sacrificed their attack in order to support a very weak defense. However, in this game that defense didn’t matter. Why? Because the Fire kept the ball in the opponent’s third. They used a solid press and with the work of Mauricio Pineda in the midfield, the defense didn’t really need to do much. It doesn’t take much more than a glance at Inter Miami’s heatmap to see how much the ball was in that end.
This was what I’ve been trying to say all season. Although the Fire’s offense seems to have gotten a bit off track in terms of finishing, having that many chances will raise the probability of something going in. While the lone goal in the game came as somewhat of a fluke, the fact that the Fire was able to create that many chances is the proof of concept. And the lack of chances from Miami proves that the best defense for the Fire is a good offense.
While the Chicago Fire were able to keep the ball in the opponent’s end and get plenty of chances, the fact that the only goal from this game came from a free-kick with too much top-spin should be concerning. The Fire got off 20 total shots the entire game, 7 of which went on target. Of those 7 shots on goal, 3 of them came from striker Robert Beric. As a stat, that looks fine for a striker, but looking at the shots in action, it’s not as good. Beric finds himself in wide open spaces and shoots almost directly at the keeper. He has not been the true big money striker that the team has wanted him to be. He might be able to do other things, but when he can’t do what you’re paying him to do, there should be concerns.
Another player who’s been incredibly disappointing on the attacking end is Przemyslaw Frankowski, who had three total shots in this game, with none on target. Two were massive chances in the 11th and 20th minutes, but one smacked against the post and the other was so poorly taken it went out for a throw-in. In terms of his role, Frankowski isn’t exactly the guy you need scoring goals. On the other hand, he’s getting himself these chances and nobody else is stepping up. He needs to do something.
The most important thing about this game wasn’t any specific moment. The most important thing for the Chicago Fire was the three points. When it comes to a team that appears to be under-performing, the only way to turn it around is finally getting a result in any way possible. This game was overwhelmingly in the Fire’s favor, but things still didn’t go right for them when they should’ve. So having at least one thing go right, having the ball roll their way just once, is enough of a spark that can help bring this team up to their potential.
Whether this spark will actually carry them to better performances is a mystery. The Fire are a team that has historically been able to lose the games they should win and win those that they shouldn’t. A random win against a better team is strangely common for the Fire and while Inter Miami isn’t that much better of a team, they were still heavy favorites going into the game. If the Fire can keep up the press and keep the ball in the opponent’s third, then they should be able to maintain the good vibes they got from this win.