Goalkeeping situation takes center stage after the Chicago Fire’s latest defeat

Kenneth Kronholm has been the Chicago Fire’s starting goalkeeper since May 29, 22 days after signing with the club. (Chicago Fire Soccer Club)

By Ernesto Hernandez

The Chicago Fire lost 3-1 to the New York Red Bulls and one of the talking points coming out of the game was the goalkeeping situation.

Kenneth Kronholm gifted New York its first goal and should have done a lot better for their third. With David Ousted on the bench, it was no surprise that calls to bring him back sounded once the game was over.

How do these two keepers stack up this season?

While the numbers are not pretty, David Ousted comes out on top simply looking at the stats. The caveat here is that Ousted has played more than double the games Kronholm has. Ousted has played in 13 games, made 30 saves, recorded four shutouts, and conceded 17 goals. That comes out to an average of 1.3 goals against per game. Again, not great numbers, but serviceable.

Kronholm has only played five games, made 11 saves, and has allowed 10 goals for an average of two goals conceded per game.

Of note here is that Ousted’s numbers still come out looking better despite him being in goal in the 4-0 loss against the San Jose Earthquakes. It was also the last game he started before being dropped in favor of Kronholm.

Going past the basic numbers, the Fire have looked no better with Kronholm in goal instead of Ousted.

Ousted was replaced after the San Jose game and at that point, a case could have been made because he had come off a few games where lack of communication and individual errors led to goals and cost the Fire points.

The one that comes to mind is the error against the Vancouver Whitecaps where he over slides for a ball and has to let go of it, resulting in a Vancouver goal. There were others as well that he chalked up to a lack of communication. To his credit, he took responsibility and said that he needed to do better.

Kronholm’s mistakes, before the Red Bulls game, were less obvious. What makes his mistakes against the Red Bulls stand out is the fact that one of the reasons why he became the starter is management felt that he was a better suit for the style that they wanted to play. Being good with his feet was supposed to be his forte.

So where do the Fire go from here?

All indications seem to be that Kronholm will continue to be the starter unless he continues to commit the same mistakes. On one side, it makes sense to stick with him because there needs to be some consistency in that position.

The Fire have not had a consistent keeper since the days of Sean Johnson. Since he left, they’ve played Jorge Bava, Matt Lampson, Richard Sanchez, Stefan Cleveland, Patrick McLain, David Ousted and now, Kenneth Kronholm to varying results, all since 2016. That’s seven keepers in three years and none have been able to secure the starting spot.

That’s one of the reasons Ousted was signed, because he was a proven veteran and had MLS experience. Kronholm was a player the team was scouting for a while, according to president and general manager Nelson Rodriguez. If that was the case, why not start the season with Richard Sanchez instead of signing Ousted if Kronholm was always the plan?

Now there’s a player making a significant amount of money on the bench and another one starting who, through five game, does not appear to be a significant upgrade. That Kronholm does not take up an international spot is a bonus but not enough if he’s not better than the goalkeeper he’s replacing.

Any errors he makes going forward is only going to make the shouts for Ousted even louder. The Fire now find themselves in the middle of a goalie controversy of their own making.

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