The Chicago Fire shot themselves in the foot on Saturday night as they lost 2-0 to Charlotte FC at Soldier Field.
Chicago came into the contest with plenty of momentum following Wednesday’s big win in front of a massive crowd. They never got going here, though, and Charlotte capitalized. They jumped in front following a lovely Ashley Westwood volley, and then Karol Świderski slotted home from the penalty spot to double their advantage.
That proved to be enough for the away side, as they held on to secure the clean sheet, the win, and all three points.
Charlotte were the ones who started on the front foot despite being on the road, as they had most of the ball. Chicago nearly scored the first, though, and they would have if Fabian Herbers cut-back wasn’t blocked by a defender.
Not much was going on, but then Charlotte opened the scoring out of nowhere. A headed clearance went right to Ashley Westwood on the edge of the area, and he went for a first-time volley. His connection was perfect, and the ball flew past the goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
That was all of the action in the first half, and nothing happened until we were 10 minutes into the second half. Miguel Navarro stupidly took out Enzo Copetti in the box despite him not even being on the ball, and after a VAR review, a penalty kick was called. Karol Świderski stepped up to take it, and he converted.
Chicago finally woke up a bit later, and they created two big chances. First Maren Haile-Selassie made solid contact on a volley, but hit it too close to the goalkeeper. Then Kacper Przybyłko had the ball bounce his way when he was just a few yards out, but he ended up blasting it over the crossbar.
The match fell into a clear pattern, as the Fire had almost all the possession, with the visitors staying compact at the back. Brian Gutiérrez had an opening with about 10 minutes to go, but he fluffed his lines and hit a volley well off target.
That proved to be their final opportunity, as Charlotte held on to clinch three huge points.
What it means
Chicago fell out of the playoff picture following the result and results elsewhere. They’ll now go into the final weekend in either 11th or 12th, and they’ll either be two points behind the 9 seed or level on points depending on how the games go midweek.
Charlotte has one of those midweek games, as they’ll travel to Inter Miami. They’re one point behind 9th at the end of tonight, but their destiny is certainly in their hands.
Notes and takeaways
It was a chilly night in Chicago, and I wish more teams in MLS really made the most of having a cold home-field advantage.
Jonathan Dean had another strong showing tonight despite the result. He consistently makes an impact on both sides of the field, and he’s cemented himself as the starting right back for this year, and probably next year too.
Miguel Navarro, on the other hand, may have sealed his fate in Chicago. The error-prone left back made another mistake tonight, and this one really cost his team. He simply cannot be trusted anymore, and it’d be very surprising if he isn’t replaced in the offseason.
The Fire just did not show up tonight. They started slow, they continued to play slow, and they ended the night slow. It was a borderline pathetic showing from almost everyone, and they deserved to lose.
How does that sort of performance happen after Wednesday night against Miami? I have no idea.
Charlotte does deserve their flowers, though. They took control of proceedings from the very start, and other than a few brief spells, they were the better team throughout. There’s potential there, and if they can finish the season strong, they could be a sneaky threat in the postseason.
Man of the match – Ashley Westwood
We should’ve known a former Burnley man would’ve done just fine on a cold night in Chicago.
The English midfield provided the crucial moment of magic on the night to put his side in front, connecting sweetly on a volley in order to blast the ball past the goalkeeper. Then he put in yet another solid shift, helping his side stay close and compact throughout the contest.
His signing was a very smart one, and now there’s a very good chance Westwood will help lead this Charlotte team into the playoffs.