Defensive errors, lack of finishing cost the Chicago Fire in a loss to San Jose

San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski, center, celebrates after scoring a goal against the Chicago Fire in San Jose, Calif. on Saturday, May 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

By Ernesto Hernandez

The Chicago Fire found themselves in the wrong side of history as Chris Wondolowski scored four times for San Jose and broke Landon Donovan’s record for most career goals in MLS. While that’s a nice story, the Fire made it all too easy for Wondolowski and San Jose.

The Fire came into this game without Bastian Schweinsteiger and Nico Gaitán and their absences were felt immediately. Marcelo, coming back from injury, and Brandt Bronico were tasked with taking over.

Neither did a particularly good job with the Brazilian defender performing very poorly and to blame for San Jose’s third goal. The defense as a whole was abhorrent with shades of their game against Seattle coming through.

But the Fire had their chances before things got of hand with Nemanja Nikolic missing two open goals prior to the end of the first-half. The first came in the 24th minute off a poor pass from Daniel Vega, the San Jose goalkeeper, that saw Nikolic have a shot at the penalty spot and struck it straight at the keeper. The second miss was decidedly worse with Nikolic having an open header after a cross from Aleksandar Katai.

The Fire looked bereft of confidence in the second half and that’s when Chris Wondolowski took over finding himself on the receiving end of a mistake from David Ousted and being left unmarked for his other two goals. As if that was not bad enough, the all-time leader in goals in MLS, came into the game having not scored this season and without scoring since October.

While it is just one loss, it is a concerning one because it was their first without Gaitán and Schweinsteiger and did nothing to quell the doubts people have about them without these two players.

They will have the German back next week but it is unacceptable for the defense to fall apart like that without Schweinsteiger. The mistakes on the goals were all due to a lack of concentration from everyone involved. To leave him unmarked in two of the four goals is something that must have left coach Veljko Paunovic fuming.

San Jose was always going to leave space open and they did. But the Fire, specifically Nemanja Nikolic, was unable to take advantage of that. The Hungarian is the team’s leading scorer with five goals but he, arguably, should have double that.

He missed two clear chances and he’s missed similar chances to those throughout the season. For a striker who has DP status, one would expect him to finish opportunities like those off. With Nelson Rodriguez mentioning that the future of all three DPs are up in the air and that the club are actively recruiting for a DP-level status player, the striker position may be a position they have in mind.

It was a sloppy performance from the entire team with Aleksandar Katai being the lone bright spot, scoring the Fire’s lone goal and trying to make things happen when he was on the ball.

The Fire now head back home to SeatGeek Stadium to face off against New York City FC. The winning streak is over and they will be on the hunt for a new one.


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