The Chicago Fire’s 2023 MLS campaign came to a merciful end on Saturday night as they lost 1-0 to NYCFC at Citi Field.
In a game with everything on the line, Chicago simply didn’t get going until it was too late. New York jumped in front following a Julián Fernández, and even though the Fire created a number of chances, they couldn’t convert any of them.
Fitting, isn’t it?
The first highlight came early on when Santiago Rodríguez picked up the ball on the edge of the area and unleashed a shot from distance. He got power behind it, but his strike was too central, which led to a simple save.
Chicago had a big chance of their own 10 minutes later. The ball fell to Fabian Herbers in the area, and he blasted an attempt on frame, but he was denied by Matt Freese.
New York responded right away, and they really should have scored. A cross picked out Talles Magno, but he made a mess of the finish, instead redirecting the ball well wide.
Keaton Parks then tried an incredible flick with the back of his foot, but it never came close to being a threat.
The hosts kept pushing forward, and they were inches away from opening the scoring. A really well-worked move led to a low cross to the backpost, but it just missed a sliding Julián Fernández.
They finally put the ball in the net when Talles Magno’s shot deflected off a body before beating the goalkeeper, but the goal was called off due to someone being offside.
It was all New York, and Magno had another opening on the left-wing. He cut inside and went for a curling shot, but Chris Brady got down low to make the save.
Despite everything, the two sides still went into the break tied at 0-0.
In a surprising turn of events Chicago came out hot to start the second half. First Xherdan Shaqiri whipped in a free-kick right at Carlos Terán, but he botched the header. Then Brian Gutiérrez had a go for goal, and even though his attempt looked good at first, it flew over the crossbar.
NYCFC recovered from those two blows, and then they came close to scoring themselves. A corner picked out Thiago Martins, but his powerful header went well wide of the frame.
The first goal finally came at the hour mark, and it was scored by the home side. Julián Fernández got onto the ball on the edge of the area, and he decided to hit one. It’s a good thing he did, as his curling effort flew into the top corner.
New York quickly went into game management mode, trying to kill the pace of play and limit any chances for Chicago. That worked for a bit, but then Brian Gutiérrez snuck into the box and won a header. However, he headed the ball right at the keeper for a simple stop.
The Fire started to control proceedings, sending body after body into the penalty area. They were the ones winning the second ball, and then had an opening when one of those bounces went to Shaqiri, but he blasted a volley well over.
Chicago kept on pushing numbers forward, but they just couldn’t convert when it mattered. As a result they lost, and their postseason hopes were finally dashed.
I’ll do a full recap of Chicago’s season eventually. There’s no reason to even think too much about this team right now. It’s cold. We’re all tired. Take care, Fire fans.
What it means
Neither team made the playoffs due to this result. New York passed Chicago, but then couldn’t pass anyone else due to the results elsewhere.
This was the end of a disastrous season for both.
Notes and observations
It’s still incredibly tinpot that NYCFC has to resort to playing in baseball stadiums at this point in their existence.
This game summed up Xherdan Shaqiri’s Fire career. He wasn’t necessarily awful, but he just wasn’t good enough on the night. He couldn’t make the final pass, and his few attempts never really challenged the goalkeeper. Once again, very fitting.
What was also fitting was that there was absolutely nothing Chris Brady could have done about the goal he conceded. Please get him some help, or find him a better home in Europe. He deserves it.
This game was a whole lot of nothing, which was especially disappointing considering the stakes on the night. Then again, neither of these teams have delivered this season, so no one should’ve expected any different here.
Man of the match – Julián Fernández
When you score a screamer that wins the game, you’re the man of the match. I don’t make the rules here.
It was Fernández’s moment of magic that separated the two sides when all were said and done. Picking up the ball on the edge of the area, his picture-perfect strike curled into the top corner, past the outstretched arms of a helpless goalkeeper.
New York weren’t able to make the playoffs, but at least the Argentine will have that goal to remember.