Fire squander two-goal lead in crushing 3-2 loss to Crew

For 45 minutes, the Fire showed the best of their ability. Then they showed why their season is on the verge of effectively ending in July.

Saturday’s 3-2 loss to the Columbus Crew was the first of a three-game homestand for the Fire that will continue Wednesday against Toronto FC and then Saturday against the Seattle Sounders. The Fire came into the day eight points out of a playoff spot, with just a 13% chance to reach the postseason per FiveThirtyEight.

More concretely, to reach the 48-point total that was good enough to reach the East playoffs in 2021, the Fire will need 31 points and average 2.06 per match over their last 15 games to hit that mark.

Over 90 minutes, the Fire (4-10-5, 17 points) started to make an argument that kind of run might be somewhat feasible. Then it became all too apparent why it will not happen.

The Fire took a 1-0 lead in the 29th minute when captain Rafael Czichos headed a sharp Chris Mueller cross past Crew goalkeeper Eloy Room. The goal was the first in MLS play for Czichos, who scored twice in the Fire’s US Open Cup loss to Union Omaha.

Striker Jhon Duran then made his presence felt in the 41st minute when his low cross snuck through the Columbus defense and found Mueller, who doubled the Fire lead. Mueller, a Schaumburg native, scored for the second time since leaving Scottish side Hibernian for the Fire.

Yet instead of killing off the game, the Fire allowed Columbus to make things interesting. Derrick Etienne scored in the 63rd minute to cut the Fire lead in half before Etienne evened things in the 75th.

Columbus then took the lead in the 83rd when Cucho Hernandez got behind the Fire defense and chipped the ball over goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina. Any chance of a late Fire comeback was short-circuited when Miguel Navarro was handed a straight red card in the 88th minute.

Duran, meanwhile, represented a major change in the Fire lineup.

Coach Ezra Hendrickson dropped underwhelming striker Kacper Przybylko in favor of Duran. Acquired over the offseason from the Union for $ 1.15 million in allocation money, Przybylko has made little impact, scoring three times while squandering many more chances for a team struggling to convert opportunities.

Duran, just 18, lacks polish but has shown promise and a dynamic presence Przybylko lacks. Perhaps his best moment before Saturday came late in last Sunday’s 2-1 loss to San Jose when his pinpoint pass set up Brian Gutierrez’s first career goal.

After that match in the Bay Area, Hendrickson was asked about potentially swapping Przybylko for Duran and sounded like a Bears coach trying to dance around a quarterback controversy.

“I’ll sit down with the coaches and we’ll definitely talk about, going forward, what we need to do, especially in the immediate [future] with this game coming up this weekend, ”Hendrickson said last Sunday. “That’s something we’ll discuss among other things. But we need to get some wins. We need to put guys on the pitch who are going to help us get those wins. We’ll decide that in the next few days, how we’re going to come out next weekend. ”

NOTE: Prior to the match, the Fire observed a moment of silence in memory of the victims of Monday’s mass shooting in Highland Park.

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