It was by far the Fire’s best performance of the season. A dynamic attack, combined with an effective high press and a stalwart defense, would certainly be rewarded with a result. Right?
Well, that was not to be the case as the Fire lost to CF Montréal 1-0.
A late Mason Toye goal in the 87th minute was all Montréal needed to pick up all three points in a match they had no business winning. All of the key stats pointed towards a Fire victory. The Fire outshot Montréal 19-6 (six on target to Montréal’s three), created over twice as many chances, and had a higher pass success rate (72% v. 69%).
While the Fire may not have dominated possession (52% v. 48%), the home side certainly did more with the ball when they possessed it. One only needs to look at the Montréal team heat map:
The road team spent a significant amount of time with the ball in their own half, signified by the two orange and red areas, one of which is in their own penalty area.
A Sloppy Affair
The first half was quite an even one. Nobody seemingly wanted to win, as players from both sides were sloppy in possession, allowing both sets of forwards to have a field day. Bobby Shuttleworth needed to make a fine save off a Bjørn Maars Johnsen strike from 12 yards out after Brian Gutierrez gave the ball away in his own half.
Montréal keeper Clement Diop also made a few fine saves throughout the match, some of which came off Montréal’s own sloppy play, a result of the Fire’s effective high press. Chicago intercepted the ball 20 times (twice as many times as Montréal), seven of which came in Montréal’s own half.
Dominant Performance Leads to Nothing
The second half was the best of the Fire’s season thus far. The high-press continued to be effective as Montréal could not get out of their own half or create any sort of attack whatsoever.
The Fire’s pressure was constant as all the players’ work rate and effort were through the roof. The Fire still did struggle to create clear-cut chances at first, due to nine different offside calls, many from striker Robert Berić.
But the Fire began to come up with more chances as the half went on. Ignacio Aliseda coming on as a substitute in the 60th minute was a pivotal point. It was Aliseda’s first appearance for the club since the season opener when he came off after just 20 minutes due to a thigh injury.
Aliseda was lively and bright on the ball, driving at defenders and creating for others. His best action was a slick pass with the outside of his right foot to Fabian Herbers who shot the ball directly at a charging Diop.
Álvaro Medrán also had a clean look at goal when he volleyed a corner kick first-time, but that too was also directly aimed at the Montréal keeper.
It looked like it may be yet another frustrating day at the office, another Fire underperformance. But it was about to become much worse than imagined when Mason Toye headed home the eventual game-winner.
Montréal created one of their few attacking sequences late on in the second half with the ball finding itself on the left wing. Zorhan Bassong’s cross then found the head of Mason Toye, who was perfectly placed between center-backs Wyatt Omsberg and Francisco Calvo. The striker agonizingly guided the ball past Shuttleworth, double-bouncing the shot into the side-netting as if the game was being played in slow motion.
The fireworks were not over as the Fire continued their assault on the Montréal defense. A Gastón Giménez ball found Boris Sekulić on the right wing and the Serbian lofted a cross into the box. Wyatt Omsberg met his head to the ball, which ended up in the back of the net. The Fire thought they had equalized, justice for a performance that arguably deserved even more than that.
However, VAR stepped in and pulled the rug out from underneath the Fire and the Soldier Field faithful. A player was deemed offside in the buildup, the goal was taken away, and the Fire came away with nothing.
What’s On Tap Next
The Fire are off for two weeks due to the upcoming international break. Their next match will be against Columbus Crew and will be the last match ever at Historic Crew Stadium.
Kickoff will be 6:30 pm CST and can be seen on WGN-TV or CFFC Live in the Chicagoland area. It will also be on ESPN+ if outside Chicagoland.