Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - BY BRIAN SANDALOW @bri­ansan­dalow

Through six games, the 2020 Fire were be­gin­ning to look like the 2019 group by cre­at­ing chances but not scor­ing. It’s an is­sue that kept last year’s tal­ented team out of the play­offs and cost Veljko Paunovic his job, paving the way for many of the off­sea­son’s on-field changes.

Then on Tues­day, the Fire beat FC Cincin­nati 3-0. The sec­ond-year team likely won’t be the tough­est test the Fire face this sea­son, but their fin­ish was an en­cour­ag­ing sign en­ter­ing Satur­day’s match at New York City FC (2-5-0, 6 points).

“We were strug­gling in past games to re­ally be clin­i­cal in front of goal,” said mid­fielder Fabian Her­bers, who scored in Tues­day’s opener. “We just didn’t get our chances and were los­ing some games even though we had the chances to win those games ac­tu­ally, or to at least get a tie out of those games. [Tues­day] we showed that when we are clin­i­cal in front of the goal that we can re­ally dom­i­nate teams and be a good team and win games.”

The win­ning games part has eluded the Fire (2-4-1, 7 points) re­cently, and their lack of ex­e­cu­tion in front of the goal was one rea­son why. It knocked them out of the MLS is Back tour­na­ment when they couldn’t score against Van­cou­ver in their fi­nal group-stage match, and they squan­dered an early chance against Colum­bus last Thurs­day that could have set a tone against one of the league’s best teams.

That wasn’t the case Tues­day. The Fire scored twice in the first 10 min­utes and were able to dic­tate play for their sec­ond win of the year and achieve victory on their re­turn to Sol­dier Field.

“So, like I said in the last cou­ple of weeks or in the last cou­ple of months, it ob­vi­ously helps when your first chance is a goal,” Fire coach Raphael Wicky said.

“The first big chance in Colum­bus was ours, we had a big chance, we don’t score there. So, it’s ob­vi­ously al­ways im­por­tant that we don’t need five or six chances to score a goal.”

Per­haps just as en­cour­ag­ingly, all three goals Tues­day night came from the mid­field, and all three were dif­fer­ent types of scores.

Her­bers, whose goal was awarded af­ter a re­view, timed his run well enough to stay on­side and vol­ley a pass from Gas­ton Gimenez. In the 10th minute, Al­varo Me­dran dou­bled the Fire’s lead by scor­ing from 30 yards out. Ig­na­cio Aliseda pro­vided the fi­nal mar­gin in the 67th minute by find­ing space inside the 18-yard box and fin­ish­ing a team buildup.

Through a trans­la­tor, Me­dran said “that shows we have a re­ally good mid­field who can adapt to any sit­u­a­tion and any po­si­tion.”

“Coach just wants us to adapt, and this shows how well we can play and adapt to­gether,” Me­dran said. “We can keep go­ing from here.” ✶


Fabian Her­bers (21), shown bat­tling with FC Cincin­nati’s Yuya Kubo for the ball on Tues­day, opened the scor­ing for the Fire at Sol­dier Field. The Fire’s Al­varo Me­dran (10) cel­e­brates his goal from 30 yards out in the 10th minute of Tues­day’s shutout win.

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