Chicago Fire mascot Sparky is fired up during the final pro soccer game at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview on Oct. 9. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Chicago Fire mascot Sparky is fired up during the final pro soccer game at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview on Oct. 9. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Pro Soccer Report: Fire closes SeatGeek season with draw; Red Stars look to break Wave

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By Jeff Vorva
Staff Writer

The final pro soccer game of 2022 at SeatGeek Stadium was fairly uneventful until things heated up toward the end.

New England’s Dylan Borreo broke up the scoreless tie in the 88th minute and the Chicago Fire responded four minutes later in stoppage time with a goal from 19-year-old homegrown player Alex Monis, helping the Fire forged a 1-1 tie in front of an announced crowd of 14,357.

The game also featured a solid performance from 18-year-old goalie Chris Brady, who stepped in for injured starter Gaga Slonina.

The Fire finished the 2022 MLS season 10-15-9 with 39 points and in 12th place in the 14-team Eastern Conference. First-year coach Ezra Hendrickson saw progress this year.

“Well, I think it’s a team that’s been in a building stage,” he said. “You know, this year was a learning process for everyone, but what I do like about this team is that we’ve shown progress. We had a few injuries, a few key injuries, that we never complained about during the season, but it was evident that it hurt our play at times, not having that depth available for some key guys.

“But you know, it’s a team that I think is growing. They’ve learned a lot from each other. Many of these guys are just playing together for the first time this year; it was almost a scrapping and made up going into the year.”

The team had its ups and downs during the season. The Fire appeared it was going to make a run at a playoff bid, but faded toward the end of the season.

“In the middle of the season we hit a good stride, and when we had most people healthy we showed it in five, six games that we can compete with the teams in this league,” Hendrickson said. “But then, like I said, once we took some key injuries it was really difficult for us to sustain games.

“Sometimes we’re in games into the 60th, 65th minute, but we just didn’t have enough to sometimes finish a lead or sometimes chase after a game. So, these are things that we’ll address and make sure that we’re better at next year.”

FIRE 10 scaled

All eyes are on a shot from the Chicago Fire’s Shaqiri Xherdan (left) against New England. It was off the mark. Photo by Jeff Vorva

 

Catch a Wave

The International break came right between the NWSL’s regular season and the first round of the playoffs, which means there is a two-week gap between the Chicago Red Stars’ Oct. 1 victory over Angel City and Sunday’s playoff game at San Diego.

“Given some of our bumps and bruises and that sort of thing, it’s probably a good thing,” Red Stars coach Chris Petrucelli said of the break. “I was excited for the guys that are going with the national teams and excited that they get the opportunity, but it is certainly not ideal timing as far as getting ready for playoffs.”

The sixth-seeded Red Stars visit the third-seeded Wave at 9 p.m. Sunday at Snapdragon Stadium. The Red Stars lost 2-1 to the Wave on the road on May 15 and 1-0 on July 30 at Soldier Field.

The Red Stars are coming off two straight runner-up finishes in the NWSL Tournament and have a group of tournament-tested veterans mixed in with young players.

“There’s a number of us who have been here for a lot of years now and I think this is a special team for us, and I think that camaraderie or that sense of team that we’ve been able to create over the years with each other,” veteran goalie Alyssa Naeher said. “It kind of makes you want it a little bit more because you don’t only want it for yourself, you want it for the person next to you too.”

Petrucelli said the team needs to find a way to break through the Wave’s defense.

“We’re going to have to figure out a way to score,” he said. “They have national team players who [didn’t go on] the trip, so probably advantage to them. But I think that we will be ready to play. You saw [the final game of the regular season] that when the chips are down it really matters, it’s a group that’s ready to play and it’s led by players that are big time character people that can carry a team.”

FIRE 26 scaled

The Chicago Fire’s Duran Jhon (middle) moves the ball down the field Oct. 9 in a 1-1 tie with New England at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview. Photo by Jeff Vorva

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