Chicago's offense not on Fire in match vs. Colorado Springs
Afternoon match between MLS, USL Championship sides ends in scoreless draw
After a decisive win on Wednesday night, the Chicago Fire had to settle for a goalless draw against Colorado Springs Switchbacks in their preseason match at Tucson's Kino North Stadium on Saturday night.
Despite being shut out, Chicago had strong first half chances from some of their big names. Xerdan Shaquiri set up Brian Gutiérrez with a shot in minute 17 and again moments later. Both shots were saved by Switchbacks keeper Christian Herrera, a former attendee of Real Salt Lake’s Arizona academy.
Chicago closed the half with a long-range shot from Polish international Kacper Przybyłko, but it hit the post.
The Switchbacks pressured Chicago almost constantly and had their share of first-half chances too, but, like the Fire, none found home.
Play was feisty for much of the match, with each team earning a yellow for violent play by the 12th minute. Tensions continued to build in the second half and culminated with a tussle involving several players in the 72nd minute. Chicago’s Chris Mueller was picked out for a talking to, but no one got carded.
The final scoreless result was a far cry from the four goal rout that Chicago was able to engineer on Wednesday, and a bit more indicative of the issues the team had last season.
“We had some chances we should put away and didn’t,” said coach Ezra Hendrickson. “That’s something we’re going to keep working on because we’ve got to keep getting better at it.”
Despite the troubles up top, Hendrickson had praise for the defense which kept their opponents off the board for the second match of preseason. The feat was even more impressive given the aggression that Colorado Springs showed in the match.
“They had a point to prove and came out really hard,” said Chicago defender Wyatt Omsberg. “It took us a couple of minutes to get into it, but once we did we settled into the game and mastered its intensity. It was a hard fought game.”
“We’re a pressing team…we want you to know that we’re going to be in your face. That’s what Colorado Springs is like,” said Colorado Springs forward Aaron Wheeler. “It’s different in MLS. There’s not too many teams that close like that.”
Colorado Springs is scheduled for its next preseason match on March 4 against New Mexico United in El Paso. Chicago finishes off their time in Tucson on Saturday at 11 a.m. with a match against Real Salt Lake.
Comeback for a Switchback
Despite being a native of Baltimore and having much of his playing career on the East Coast, Colorado Springs Switchbacks forward Aaron Wheeler has some strong Arizona ties. He has a sister that lives in Tucson and worked at FC Barcelona’s academy in Casa Grande.
During his time away from playing, he had a series of coaching gigs that eventually led to Casa Grande, which got him a chance encounter with Brendan Burke, who was an assistant coach at Philadelphia during Wheeler’s time there. That encounter ended his five year retirement from the game.
“I wasn’t looking to play at all for the first year…we essentially retired and moved to Myrtle Beach, my wife and I…we didn’t touch a soccer ball,” he said. “I was at Barça (in Casa Grande), and Colorado Springs is down for preseason…Brendan is like, can you still play?”
“I wasn’t looking. I thought my career was done. I’m super grateful to be in this position,” he added.