Chicago Fire vs CF Montreal: Legendarily Underwhelming

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - SEPTEMBER 12: Robert Beric #27 of Chicago Fire scores a goal in the first half against the Columbus Crew at Solider Field on September 12, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - SEPTEMBER 12: Robert Beric #27 of Chicago Fire scores a goal in the first half against the Columbus Crew at Solider Field on September 12, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /

There aren’t very many things left that can be said about the Chicago Fire. They are a team that walks into games that they shouldn’t be able to win and get a result. Then, they go up against a team like CF Montreal, a perfectly winnable game based on talent, and they lose 1-0 in the 87th minute. Let’s take a look at the game:

CF Montreal started the game with a visible intent to press and attack the Chicago Fire, with their line as high as possible even before kick-off. Much of the first half actually put the ball in Montreal’s end, but early mistakes like a mistimed header from Wyatt Omsberg and a bad giveaway from Brian Gutierrez were enough to give quick chances to Montreal. The most substantial chance of the first half went to Gutierrez in the 28th minute, when a whiff from Luka Stojanovic let the ball fall right to him on the far post. Unfortunately, he kicked it to the only place in the goal frame where Clement Diop could get to it.

The Chicago Fire continued to see more chances that Montreal in the second half, although none of them really had any threat to them. A 57th minute shot from Luka sailed over the bar and a 75th minute breakaway ended with Fabian Herbers unable to use any of his free space of the box to get past Diop. Montreal broke the stalemate in the 87th minute when a fairly weak cross barely grazed Mason Toye’s head, falling to the far bottom corner before Bobby Shuttleworth could react. It appeared in the 97th minute that Omsberg might’ve tied the game up at the death with a header of his own, but VAR called it back due to an offside in the buildup.

These are three things to take from this game:

Stoppable Force Meets a Move-able Object

Neither team should be happy with their performance in this game. This is just an unfortunate product of playing soccer over an entire season, you get a bad team to go up against a bad team and you have to deal with the fallout from that. CF Montreal did exactly what the Chicago Fire needed, which was pull back on the press and allow the ball to remain in their end for much of the game. On the other side, the Fire just couldn’t score.

While I’ll go into more detail on Robert Beric specifically later, the Fire’s attack just doesn’t feel dangerous at all. Despite having the majority of chances, 19 shots and 6 of them on goal, the Fire just never feel like they’re close to a chance. They’re not a team with any excitement around them. Teams are willing to give them space because Chicago is never able to make anyone pay.

Mason Toye is a solid striker and Montreal was lucky that he recovered from injury quickly to enter this game. Otherwise it would’ve been an excruciating scoreless draw.

Designated Bust

It may be time to finally grade the Chicago Fire’s designated players. In this game alone, Gaston Gimenez caused more harm to the Fire than any player on Montreal and Robert Beric showed a complete inability to stay onside long enough to take a shot, much less take a shot worthy of a DP striker when he does get the chance.

Last season, Beric had a bad start, only getting 2 goals in the first 10 games. Then, he went on a 5 game scoring streak and would eventually end up with a 12 goal season, his best season since 2014-15. In fact, Beric had gone about five years since his last 10 goal season. For a player being entrusted to be the focal point of the Fire’s offense, these are incredibly disappointing numbers.

As for Gaston Gimenez, his giveaways in the midfield and poor decision-making was a direct cause leading to multiple counter-attacks from Montreal. As an excuse for his poor performance against DC United, reports said that he’d injured himself in that game. This was confirmed with him missing the win over Inter Miami. With an apparently healthy game here, it’s clear that Mauricio Pineda would be better trusted to handle that midfield.

With two designated players deemed almost wholly as busts and the third barely getting playing time, the Chicago Fire need to do better in the transfer market going forward.

Panic Switch

The real question is: Who will be making the decisions going forward? Is it time for Chicago Fire owner Joe Mansueto to hit the panic switch on this GM/HC pairing? With a three-week break coming in between matches, is this the time for some big questions to be asked of Raphael Wicky and Georg Heitz?

Going into this season there were obviously some questions about why continuity was so important for a team that failed to make the playoffs; but after the worst start to a season in Fire history and a clear lack of results coming from what were supposed to be key signings, those questions are even bigger and more numerous. Only 30 games under his direction, Wicky has lost 15 of them. That is 50% of all games that Chicago is taking the L. Any other coach in Chicago with that bad of a win% would be immediately taking the L headed towards the airport out of town.

It’s even more interesting to consider if Heitz should go as well, since much of the lack of talent on the pitch can be traced to him. This is the team that he said he was comfortable with going into the season. And if on paper these players should work, if they’re not working in practice, they’re just not working.

Joe Mansueto now has three weeks to take some time and consider the futures of Heitz and Wicky and whether it’s time to move on already. He’s not a man who would make decisions like these lightly, but there comes a time when early action may be needed.