Fire squander two-goal lead, tie FC Cincinnati 3-3
The Fire like to talk about how they’re a defense-oriented team that keeps its shape and discipline. With that mindset, two-goal leads easily should become three points.
They don’t for the Fire.
After surrendering a pair of two-goal leads in losses last year, the Fire wasted a two-goal advantage Saturday night and settled for a 3-3 draw with FC Cincinnati. The Fire were up 3-1 through 83 minutes, but Cincinnati’s Sergio Santos scored in the 84th before Junior Moreno’s second of the game in the 87th deprived the Fire of their first victory of the season.
To say the least, coach Ezra Hendrickson wasn’t happy. He didn’t like how the Fire -(0-1-2, 2 points) defended the corner kick that led to Santos’ goal and the team’s mindset as it tried to close the match.
“We have them on the ropes like that, and we don’t finish the job,” Hendrickson said.
The Fire were without Xherdan Shaqiri and Jairo Torres (right upper leg) and Federico Navarro (left upper leg) because of injuries, while Kei Kamara and Fabian Herbers were suspended after getting two yellow cards last week in Philadelphia.
Yet, even without five starting-level performers and both of their designated players, the Fire led for most of a frigid night at Soldier Field that is believed to be the coldest home game in team history. But the Fire couldn’t close out the match, dropping two points and reminding people of the home debacles against Columbus and Charlotte a year ago.
The game wasn’t a loss like those matches, but the Fire weren’t celebrating the point they picked up thanks to first-half goals from Kacper Przybylko and Rafael Czichos and a score 45 seconds into the second half from Chris Mueller. With the game on the line, Hendrickson wanted the Fire to play with an attitude by which they would be determined to prevent a goal off a corner, foul if they were caught on a counterattack and make sure they wouldn’t get pushed around or beaten by their man.
“That didn’t happen tonight,” Hendrickson said. “We almost lost that game. We’re not happy about this tonight. We felt like we lost two points tonight, not gained one.”
The unanswered question, and one the Fire must figure out soon, is why does this keep happening? Minutes after the match, Hendrickson didn’t have an answer.
He suggested he might make training more competitive and situational to better prepare the Fire for crunch time. But tweaking practices will only go so far.
“It’s all about competing,” Hendrickson said. “The [soccer] has been too good not to come out with results. Tonight, we played probably our best game of the three, and we still didn’t get the result that we want.”
Goalkeeper Chris Brady, who made five saves, pinpointed one issue.
“I don’t think there’s a direct answer I can give you other than us as a collective, we need to be more disciplined,” Brady said. “This game should have been ours. Three points should have been ours tonight, but it didn’t happen and we need to be more disciplined in the future.”
In the offseason, Hendrickson was optimistic the Fire could find ways to win a game like this one as he repeated how close the club was to being a playoff team last year. When he spoke to the media after the game, it was obvious how upset and disappointed he felt, seeing one of the team’s biggest 2022 issues crop up early in 2023.
“It’s all about competing,” Hendrickson said. “It’s all about fighting for the badge.”