CHICAGO – The scenario itself was simple, but making it actually happen never is.
That’s the way it’s been for Chicago Fire FC all season long, where the ups and downs of a new group have led to some big victories yet frustration at points lost. All of that was part of Raphael Wicky’s first year with a club that featured a lot of new personnel in a year that was chopped up due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yet with all that, one victory would have put the Fire into the postseason for the first time since the 2017 season and for just the third for the club since 2013. If they were even able to get a point, they’d need a loss or tie from both Inter Miami and Atlanta United FC to squeeze into the postseason.
A loss didn’t even eliminate them, but a loss by Atlanta, then a loss or tie by Miami and DC United would all be needed to advance.
But nothing came easy for the Fire this season, and it wouldn’t on MLS’ Decision Sunday.
A wild first half gave way to a tighter final 45 minutes, which one mistake by the Fire led to the end of their season. In the 77th minute, a turnover in their own end led to New York City FC’s game-winning goal in a 4-3 triumph at Soldier Field.
Thanks to Inter Miami’s 2-1 win over FC Cincinnati, the Fire were officially eliminated from the postseason, finishing with a 5-10-8 record. They were one point in back of Miami for the tenth spot and that deficit ended their season.
“Yeah, look, of course, we’re all very disappointed. This is an objective we all had, we all wanted to go in there and we didn’t accomplish that, and of course we’re disappointed,” said Wicky of the defeat that ended the Fire’s season. “It hurts because we all felt that we could’ve been in there, but in the end of the day you are where you are. “
That’s out of the playoffs, with their fate sealed on a turnover in the 77th minute when Miguel Angel Navarro’s kick tailed back into the Fire’s own scoring area. Valentin Castellanos got a foot on the ball and put it past goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth for what would be the game-winning goal.
Chicago Fire FC had a few chances in the final 13 minutes and then three in stoppage, but didn’t have enough to get the two goals they needed. An equalizer wouldn’t have been enough to put the team in the postseason since an Inter Miami tie or loss was needed to make that happen.
That was the only second half score after a wild first half where the Fire trailed by a pair of goals twice yet rallied back. After falling behind 2-0, Robert Beric got the the club on the board with his 12th and final tally of the season in the 33rd minute.
NYCFC got another four minutes later, but Przemyslaw Frankowski had an answer all by himself. He got a score on a feed in the box from Djordje Mihailovic in the 41st minute then knocked in another less than two minutes later to tie it at three.
Unfortunately there would be no response like that in the second half, as a goal by the visitors would go unanswered. A year in which nothing was easy for Chicago Fire FC has come to an end in early November, as the first chapter of a new era comes to a close.