The respect the Red Bulls still maintain for their ex-captain Dax McCarty was evident Saturday night in the lingering handshakes and hugs McCarty exchanged with his old teammates after the match.
Yet, despite another outstanding performance from the Fire captain alongside the expert passing of German international Bastian Schweinsteiger, the final whistle found the Fire conceding to the Red Bulls in yet another road loss.
Nemanja Nikolic’s tying goal in the 59′ seemed to be making for a dramatic comeback win for the Men in Red, led by Fire captain McCarty and his first return to Red Bull Arena since his controversial trade to Chicago in January.
Indeed, McCarty’s deft maneuvering as he dribbled between two defenders and dished a perfect through ball to Nikolic for the goal seemed to give the Fire all the momentum in the second half. Even after a sleeping Fire back line gave N.Y .back the lead in the 71′, Chicago’s consistent attacking surges led by McCarty and Schweinsteiger seemed it impossible that the Windy City club wouldn’t score.
Yet, even five minutes of stoppage time after 90 minutes wasn’t enough for the Fire to level the scoreline. Still, in the face of their eleventh MLS road game without a win, the Fire looked undoubtedly more dangerous than last week’s loss at Toronto.
David Accam was finally in full physical form and back to his place in the starting lineup, fulfilling his increasingly more common role as a facilitator for the rest of the offense. On more than a few occasions, his vision and pin-point passing accuracy led to sure-to-score opportunities for the Fire, particularly for emerging goal-scorer Nemanja Nikolic.
Nikolic alone fired off seven shots, and although one found the net in his fifth goal of the season, there were enough missed opportunities from the Hungarian striker that his lone goal seemed to be an underwhelming disappointment. Nikolic’s exasperated look at the end of the match as he sat in the middle of pitch signaled his own frustration with himself, despite his goal being the first home-goal the Red Bulls have conceded this 2017 season.
Some will say that the Fire look as though they are still missing a critical piece, even after the addition of Schweinsteiger from Manchester United. However, the statistical sheet – which shows the Fire’s edge in both possession, passing accuracy, and shots on goal – will tell not the story of an incomplete puzzle, but one of missed opportunities.