It wasn’t their best performance, and they did so without two of their top players as Xherdan Shaqiri subbed out after 18 minutes when he felt tightness in his calf and Rafael Czichos was a late scratch because of MLS health and safety protocols.
“Shaq is a big part of what we do with the ball, on the attacking side of things, and when you lose that – even Rafa, even as a defender, he helps us build it out of the back because he's very good on the ball,” Fire coach Ezra Hendrickson said after the game. "So when you lose those two guys, it becomes a little difficult and we just weren't fluid tonight, at all. It got a little better late in the first half, but in the second half, we just weren't good enough on the ball, on the night.”
To still grind out a result, even when his team wasn’t at its best, was a positive for Hendrickson.
“I told them that it's a sign of a team that's gelling together, that's getting better, when even on your worst night, or a night when you don't play your best football, you still find a way to get something out of the game and not lose the game,” Hendrickson said after the game. “And we were able to do that tonight. So that's the positive we'll take from this, but we could be better than we were today.”
Brian Gutierrez subbed on for Shaqiri and was another bright spot on a dreary Saturday for the Fire. As is the fourth clean sheet already of the season, which is a major improvement from last season.
“I think last year we would switch off in certain moments, during the game, and I feel like this year we're always tuned in into all phases of play and the game and I think we just grind out results, you know,” Gutierrez said. "Even though things don't go our way offensively, we keep a clean sheet defensively and we are organized when we keep talking as a group, which helps us on the field.”