COLUMBUS, Ohio – There is something to be said about a trio of openers for Chicago Fire FC during this most unusual 2020 season.
While there are things to accomplish now, the goal continues to be building the club for the future under new head coach Raphael Wicky and a healthy amount of new players. That was the case in the season opener in Seattle, the contest against the Sounders to start the MLS is Back Tournament, and Thursday’s match in Columbus.
This one is to begin a six-game stretch as part of the MLS’ first phase of returning to play in the traditional regular season. It proves Wicky a half-dozen games at Soldier Field and on the road to get some productive work done.
The game against the Columbus Crew SC, one of the best teams in the MLS, showed some good and some bad for the Fire, who were close in the contest till the final minutes. Darlington Nagbe gave Columbus some breathing room with an incredible strike that found the back of the net in the 81st minute then Gyasi Zardes put in another seven minutes later to make up the 3-0 final.
In between, the Fire were able to keep within distance of their hosts who got their first goal in the 20th minute from Derrick Etienne Jr. But they couldn’t capitalize on their opportunities as they were shutout for a third-straight game.
San Jose and Vancouver defeated Wicky’s team in the final two games in Orlando as the team’s offense continues to sort things out.
“The lesson is, and again, it’s the same what we spoke about in Orlando. The last thing is that we need to be better in finishing our chances because we create chances, every single game we create chances,” said Wicky after the match. “We need to be better in finishing them and then it’s too easy, the 1-0 is clearly too easy. It’s one long ball and there is a goal. That cannot happen. It’s too easy.”
“So, if on both ends of the field, we are not 100 percent, then it will be difficult. I think we put this team, which is one of the best of the league under a lot of pressure. We put them into danger. There were a lot of stretches in my eyes where we played really well, but then the lesson was that they were very clinical and we were not.”
Good news for Wicky is he has at least five more chances to do so this season, with the team finally getting to play at Soldier Field on Tuesday against FC Cincinnati. Columbus, who leads the league with 16 points, is back for the team’s final game of this stretch at home on September 12th.
Perhaps by then the club will have found some rhythm on offense to give the Crew a run at it in a few weeks.
“If we don’t score, then you make one little mistake and they are going to score,” said defender Francisco Calvo. “These kind of teams, they just do that. But then I’m still thinking that we are going to set our tone and we are going to score a lot of goals.”
Until then, the work continues for a team still forming it’s identity during this unusual 2020 season.