What seemed like a hopeful start to the Chicago Fire’s eighth season of rebuilding is looking more like the mess of seasons’ past following their 4-0 blowout loss to the host Atlanta United on Saturday.
Things went awry very early on at a sold out Bobby Dodd Stadium, as Brandon Vincent’s own goal in the 4′ set the tone for the rest of the match. Worse, Dutch defender Johan Kappelhof did the team no favors when he was sent off in the 11′ for tripping up Josef Martinez just outside the box in an obvious goal-scoring opportunity.
Martinez would later make a run in the 60′ past two sleeping defenders to double the lead, dancing around Fire keeper Jorge Bava before passing the ball into an empty net.
Two more goals late into the second half for Atlanta sealed off hope for any sort of comeback by a Fire side that only managed three shots on target, and ended the game with a dismal 17% possession statistic.
Despite the Fire’s defensive collapse – one that reflects the recurring struggle of recent seasons – little can be poorly said of a back line whose team can neither keep the ball nor create offensive opportunities. Dax McCarty’s consistently dangerous vision and aggressive passing was effectively useless without the ball at his feet, and scoring machine David Accam seemed to be nonexistent on the pitch besides a harmless header that came much too late to make a difference in the 68′.
Perhaps the only positive takeaway for Chicago soccer fans was to see ex-Fire midfielder and captain Jeff Larentowicz fitting in nicely at his new Atlanta home.
It’s too early to tell if this is the story-line that Chicago fans should expect all season, or if this Atlanta United squad – one that so far resembles nothing of an expansion team – really is that good. Between the two, the result could just be a fluke, one that the Fire hope fans can forgive and forget rather quickly.
Patience among fans, however, is wearing thin. Crowds at Toyota Park have grown more and more sparse with each passing season, and with three upcoming home games in a row, now is the time to make a statement.
To begin their home game stretch, the Men in Red will take on Dominic Oduro and the so far so-so Montreal Impact on Saturday, April 1, at 2pm CT. The Impact are coming off a comeback draw at New York City FC, and present the Fire an opportunity to turn things around before they get much worse.