The Chicago Fire handed the Philadelphia Union only their second loss of the season after a spectacular 1-0 at Soldier Field. Fede Navarro’s second-half goal was the difference between the two sides and secured all three points for the Fire as they look to turn the tide.
Starting line-up (left to right): Slonina; A. Reynolds (Bornstein 65′), Czichos, Terán, Sekulić; F. Navarro, Gimenez; Mueller (Espinoza 86′), Shaqiri, Herbers (Gutiérrez 65′); Pryzbyłko
Gaga Slonina (8) – Gaga’s solid June form continued with a huge performance on Wednesday night against Union. He only managed two saves but it’s hard to deny his impact on the game as he made sure the ball stayed out of his net. The highlight came in the 47th minute; Gaga first made a high-quality diving save to tip Cory Burke’s shot off the post, but then picked the ball up off the line as it nearly sank behind him. The clean sheet is Slonina’s seventh of the season… second in MLS, with only Sean Johnson having more (8).
Andre Reynolds II (7) – The home full-back made his first MLS start in his fourth season and made a good change to contain Union’s strong attack. Philadelphia focused much of their attack on their side, but the visitors couldn’t produce anything. Reynolds showed promise in his 65 minutes and showed that if he can maintain that level he will be a good reliable option for this team to have at left-back.
Rafael Czichos (7) – Despite having one of the most frustrating misses of the night, Rafa Czichos put in a strong defensive performance and certainly played his part in earning the shutout. His 5 clearances and 3 interceptions are the stats that stand out the most, even though his distribution wasn’t at its best.
Carlos Terán (7.5) – Terán had a huge defensive change and pleaded to take the lead in what appears to be a two-horse race between him and Mauricio Pineda to start at center right in the absence of Wyatt Omsberg. The numbers speak for themselves; 8 clearances, 11 recoveries, 4 aerial duels won… it was a big night for the Colombian who has been struggling with consistency lately.
Boris Sekulic (8) – Right-back Boris Sekulić is another player who put in a top-notch performance. Boki is another player who has sought to find consistency this season; he had great games where he showed his quality and others where he looks like a shadow of himself. Against Union he was one of the Fire’s most impactful players and had a huge game on both sides of the ball, culminating in the assist for Fede Navarro’s goal. On the assist, Boki ventured to the opposition penalty box and had the awareness to exploit the already booked Jose Martínez and set up Navarro for the game winner.
Fede Navaro (9) — Navarro’s rating is the highest we’ve given this season, and for good reason. Fede played in the midfield double pivot and did exactly what he was asked to do and more. Navarro dominated defensively as the ball winner, preventing Union from creating chances, and his performance culminated with the winning goal in the 68th minute. Since joining the Fire, Navarro’s role alongside Gastón Giménez has been mostly defensive. He was asked to do the dirty work. However, against the Union, he was encouraged to push forward further and get involved in construction. The adjustment paid off; Navarro completed 39 passes, made 4 long balls and, of course, scored his only shot of the night.
Gaston Gimenez (7.5) — Fede Navarro’s more proactive role in his match didn’t limit Giménez’s creativity, and the DP still put in a solid performance. Giménez completed 55 passes and 10 long balls and was instrumental in closing the game in the second half. When Philadelphia was down to 10 men, it was essential for the Fire to just keep the ball, and Giménez made sure they could do just that.
Chris Müller (8) – Chris Mueller was extremely impactful on the wing on Wednesday night. His best moment came on goal, where he weaved his way between Defender of the Year Kai Wagner, a play that found the feet of Boris Sekulić who provided the assist. Mueller started on the left but was switched to the right with the introduction of Brian Gutiérrez, and he certainly made life difficult for both full-backs.
Xherdan Shaqiri (6.5) – Shaqiri returned from a month-long injury layoff and entered straight into the starting lineup, although he didn’t have the most impactful performance. Shaqiri was heavily involved in the build, eventually making 88 touches in the attacking midfield position, but he struggled to create. Completing just 1/4 dribbles and 1/9 crosses, it was a frustrating night, and his set pieces just weren’t good enough. However, with the World Cup approaching, the Swiss international still has plenty of time to show off and showcase his world-class talent.
Fabian Herbers (6) — Herbers was chosen over Brian Gutiérrez and was almost anonymous. He didn’t make too much of an impact on offense and was eventually taken out for Guti around the hour mark. Herbers had three shots but none found the target.
Kacper Przybylko (6) – As the forgettable performances of Przybyłko, Shaqiri and Herbers show, this match was won in midfield, not in attack. The Pole, playing against his former team, still had a difficult game, even though he was able to get into good positions. The most notable moment was his head hitting the woodwork.
Brian Gutierrez (7) – Guti was somewhat surprisingly taken out of line-up for Herbers, and when he came on in the 65th minute, the scales tipped in favor of the Fire. Although he still has to wait for his first Fire goal, the 19-year-old brought fresh energy in the second half and made a solid change.
Jonathan Bornstein (7) — In half an hour, Bornstein didn’t have much to do as Philadelphia struggled to create chances in the second half. He did what he was asked to do, completed 9/9 passes and ultimately helped wrap up the win and the clear sheet.
Jhon Espinoza (NR) – Espinoza came on as the right winger for the final minutes and also did what he was asked to do but there wasn’t enough time for him to make a noticeable contribution.
Ezra Hendrickson(8) – Much of the credit goes to the head coach for this win. Even with the Fire in last place, the team still has the belief and motivation to come out and fight for the three points against what the standings suggest is a vastly superior team. Altering the midfield to give Navarro more license to move forward paid off which of course resulted in the goal. Plus, the 65th-minute changes, which included Chris Mueller moving to the right, certainly paid off and gave the Fire their second win in three games.