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Chicago Sun Times
Chicago Sun-Times
25 Mar 2023


NextImg:Positives, negatives apparent early in Fire season

It doesn’t take that much squinting to see some positives from the Fire’s 0-1-2 start. 

Yes, they are the lone winless Eastern Conference team entering Saturday’s match at Inter Miami, but the Fire stood up to league heavyweight Philadelphia Union while down a man for almost the entire second half before giving up the game-winning goal in the 90th minute. Then, despite going without five starting-level players a week later, they were comprehensively better than FC Cincinnati for 75 minutes before a late collapse that led to a 3-3 tie.

Of course, there are plenty of negatives sprinkled in, too.

Disciplinary issues, also a problem last year, cropped up again when the Fire were short-handed in Philadelphia because of a reckless challenge by Fabian Herbers, who was already on a yellow card. Then the Fire finished the match with nine players following Kei Kamara’s second yellow. And just as good as the Fire looked for most of the night against Cincinnati, their pesky habit of not finishing matches kicked in, and they were actually lucky to escape with a point.

“One of the things before the game, what we told them was, we’re trying to build a successful team here,” coach Ezra Hendrickson said after the Cincinnati game. “And a sign of growth, the sign of building a team, is when you could have a good performance and then follow it up with an even better performance. That’s what we had to go out and do tonight. And I thought for the most part we did, but we just didn’t get the end result. We just did not finish up the game as strongly as we needed to.”

The end of the Cincinnati match overshadowed the performance of winger Maren Haile-Selassie, who made his first start with the Fire after coming on loan from Swiss partner club FC Lugano during the offseason. Haile-Selassie showed the kind of speed that plays well in MLS, opening lanes of attack for his teammates. Yet that wasn’t the top thing on his mind after the game. Almost sheepishly, he spoke about his own play, but quickly pivoted elsewhere.

“I felt really good to be honest. From the start, I had a good feeling,” Haile-Selassie said. “Also the team connection with the players was good. At the end, I would have loved to have gotten three points.”

It’s early and the playoffs have expanded by two teams, but the Fire know they cannot afford to give up points in winnable matches. Even if the play — without injured midfielders Jairo Torres and Federico Navarro for two games and Xherdan Shaqiri last week — has been decent, that won’t matter much if the results don’t arrive.

Hendrickson doesn’t need to be reminded of that fact.

“We’ll continue to get better, continue to progress, because every game is going to be difficult,” he said. “Every game we’re going to have to fight. No one is going to give you points. You have to earn your points and that’s something that we have to learn to be better at. Especially when we have the better of the play for most of the game: can we get the full three points, home or away?”