The Warm Down: Charlotte FC 2-3 Chicago Fire
Photo via @ChicagoFire on Twitter

The good times kept on rolling for the Chicago Fire on Saturday night as they defeated Charlotte FC 3-2 at the Bank of America Stadium.

The hosts made a dream start to the contest, scoring after just one minute via a header from Yordy Reyna. Chicago responded very well, though, and two goals in the span of three minutes midway through the first half put them in front. The lead didn’t last until the break, as a close-range finish from Karol Świderski leveled the scoring. The Fire did restore their advantage early on in the second half when Kacper Przybyłko grabbed his second of the night, and that proved to be the winner as the defense held on to secure the victory.

All in all it was an eventful 90 minutes of soccer, and there’s a lot to unpack from the contest as a result.

Thoughts and observations and whatnot

The shade of blue on Charlotte’s jersey might be the best in the league.

Xherdan Shaqiri did a rabona for a five-yard pass with no one around him or his teammate at one stage. It was absolutely necessary.

Life is really funny sometimes. Kacper Przybyłko, who has been woeful all season, only started this game because Jhon Durán said some stupid things on social media. He then went on to drop an attacking masterclass, scoring twice while being a threat throughout. It was like he was back in Philadelphia. The Polish striker has to start next weekend now, and if he’s able to continue this form going into the future then it would be one of the most remarkable turnarounds I’ve ever seen.

Federico Navarro got that dawg in him. Brought in midway through last season, he was good early on in his Fire career, but he had a rough start to this campaign. That’s all in the past now, though, as he put in yet another strong showing. A true box-to-box midfielder, he got the job done on both sides of the pitch. He scored an excellent goal, and he also stopped a number of opposing attacks before they even got going. The Argentine might just be back to being a top-tier midfielder in MLS.

Shoutout to Kristijan Kahlina, who made one of the saves of the season. Chris Mueller blasted a shot towards goal from just a few yards out, but the goalkeeper managed to get an arm out to block the ball into the sky before he grabbed it out of the air. 

Charlotte absolutely needed to win this game. They were at home, where they usually do very well, and they were up against a team who are almost always terrible on the road. Then there was the fact that Chicago were without both of their centerbacks, with one of them being their captain as well. However, the Crowns just didn’t show up defensively, and they were made to pay for their poor play. They’ve had a good season so far, but this result will be a real disappointment.

On the other hand, this was a massive win for the Fire. It was their second road win in a row, and heaven only knows the last time that happened (October, 2013). The victory also came against a direct Eastern Conference rival, which might prove to be massive in the race for the playoffs. They had a few absolutely dreadful months earlier in the campaign, but this Chicago team might actually be legit after all.

The referee did not have a great game. His decisions weren’t biased either way, but whenever he made a call someone was there to complain to his face about it. That’s never a good look for an official, and it was an indictment on how rough the contest was for him. 

What comes next?

Charlotte travels to LAFC next weekend. That is going to be a tough test, of course, as LA are already top of the league, and they might still be getting better. The good thing about the contest is that it will serve as a free hit of sorts for the Crowns. If they lose, that will be understandable given the circumstances. However, if they’re able to pick up a point or three somehow then it will be a huge result for their playoff push, especially after what happened on this night.

Chicago goes to the Philadelphia Union, and that will also be a very tricky fixture. Philly are top of the Eastern Conference, and they’ve been quietly superb for a while now. However, they just lost to FC Cincinnati, so there could be blood in the water. If the Fire are able to win that fixture, then the sky’s the limit in terms of their aspirations for this season.