May 20, 2018; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Fire goalkeeper Richard Sanchez (45) makes a save against Houston Dynamo defender Alejandro Fuenmayor (2) during the first half at Bridgeview Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
The Houston Dynamo won on the road for the first time this season by beating the Chicago Fire 3-2 Sunday. It was the Fire’s fourth home loss of the season.
Here are three things we learned from the match:
Playoff hopes in trouble
Major League Soccer is forgiving enough that it’s tough to say a team is truly out of the playoffs on May 20. However, things look dark for the Fire.
The Eastern Conference is looking like the stronger of the two conferences this season, and the Fire have some catching up to do. With 11 points in 11 matches, the Fire are six points below the playoff line.
Six points isn’t insurmountable, but that doesn’t factor in Toronto’s early struggles. The defending champs have had an injury-riddled start, but still seem like a safe bet to make some sort of run this season.
The Fire are seven points behind last year’s pace. In 2017 the Fire finished third in the East with 55 points. A 48-point season would have missed the playoffs by two points, and this team hasn’t shown any signs of replicating last year’s quality.
In addition to the bleak standings, the Fire have only played four matches on the road. The team’s four home losses are the most in the league. The next two matches and four of the next six are on the road. All those home losses mean the Fire will have to make up for it away from Toyota Park.
Houston is still a counterattacking team
The Fire were without Dax McCarty in central midfield so it’s not a huge surprise they struggled to win the possession battle. Houston had a slight edge in possession for the first 70 minutes of the game. Only when the Dynamo took a 3-2 lead did the Fire push forward and control the ball.
Despite that, Houston’s goals still came on counterattacks. Tomas Martinez, who had a standout game for the Dynamo, set up Romell Quioto on a breakaway for the first goal of the game with a killer through ball in transition. Mauro Manotas was tripped in the box for a penalty kick on a breakaway for the tying goal. Alberth Elis scored the game-winner moments after a Fire corner kick.
Houston had a decent amount of the ball, but was still most dangerous on the counter.
Bastian Schweinsteiger’s frustration
Schweinsteiger showed visible frustration with his teammates on multiple occasions during the match. Typically, he has been a very good teammate and leader for the Fire.
However, as the losses continue for the Fire this could become a concern. Schweinsteiger has always been on top-tier teams that didn’t lose six games out of 11. Even for an experienced player like him, this is somewhat new.
The Fire need to get healthy and make some additions in the summer transfer window. It could be too late by then, and things could get worse before they get better.
Schweinsteiger was involved in both Fire goals and is arguably having a better season than last year. Keeping him happy will be important going forward.