By Ernesto Hernandez
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
That overused cliché is exactly what it feels like watching the 2019 Chicago Fire, especially on the road.
Their abysmal road record continues as the team fell 3-1 to the New York Red Bulls in which the same problems that have plagued this team all season continue to come up despite countless claims that they will be addressed.
What makes things even more maddening is that the Fire actually played a good game and dominated a large majority of it. The Fire had more shots than New York, 26 to 10, more shots on goal, 8 to 5, and had 63 percent possession.
But, once again, they shot themselves in the foot.
Kenneth Kronholm, the keeper who replaced David Ousted because he was better with his feet, made a blunder of a backpass from Bastian Schweinsteiger which Red Bulls’ Alejandro “Kaku” Romero Gamarra pounced on and shot at an empty net to put his team ahead.
That’s inexcusable whichever way you slice it but, to their credit, the Fire kept applying the pressure and created countless opportunities to equalize. But whether it was bad finishing or Luis Robles saves, the ball did not find itself in the back of the net.
The Fire came out with the same intensity in the second half and kept knocking on the door. However, this team literally cannot get out of its own way.
After Dax McCarty recovered a ball, in his attempt to go forward, the ball ricocheted off Jorge Corrales which led to a New York counter. As soon as the Red Bulls recovered the ball, the feeling that they would score was inevitable. Indeed, New York, who had created very little, took advantage of the turnover and Brian White, in between two Fire defenders, tapped the ball past Kronholm for the second goal of the game.
Nemanja Nikolic, who started on the bench, was brought on to try to salvage something. Despite his struggles, he managed to pull the Fire back into the game after finding himself in the right place at the right time. A shot by Katai deflected off the crossbar and it fell to Nikolic for his sixth goal of the season.
Red Bulls put a bow on this game in stoppage time in another effort that will lead to questions about the Fire’s goalkeeping. Royer found himself at the end of a cross and that was all she wrote.
With the loss, the Fire remain winless on the road this season and have not won any of their last seven games in all competitions. In fact, their last win came in early May, at home, against Minnesota United. This season, they’ve managed to win only four games.
The mistakes on the field have become so repetitive to the point of being comical. The same errors game after game, loss after loss, and the talk is that they will be fixed. But the team has been prone to the same mistakes for a season and a half now and have yet to be fixed.
Sure, the lack of scoring ultimately comes down to the players but the lapses in concentration, particularly on defense, can be fixed during training and they simply haven’t. That comes down to the manager. This team has holes, no question about it, but the in-game mistakes come down to preparation rather than personnel.
You can rearrange the chairs on the Titanic and blame the crew for hitting the iceberg, but at the end of the day, the ship’s captain has to take responsibility.