There’s one Major League Soccer team yet to concede a goal during the 2022 season, and the answer might come as a surprise.
It's the infancy of the new campaign, but the early returns show Chicago Fire FC sit atop the league with zero goals against through three matches – draws against Inter Miami CF and Orlando City SC – before picking up the first win of the Ezra Hendrickson era, a 2-0 victory on the road against D.C. United on a blustery Saturday night at Audi Field.
Becoming stingier defensively was a point of emphasis in the preseason, and the Fire have delivered thus far. A year ago their 54 goals conceded were in the league's bottom third and a major reason behind their fourth straight Audi MLS Cup Playoffs miss.
“I would say there's definitely a different mentality within the group,” veteran Jonathan Bornstein said. “I think in general, something we wanted to do as a club, make it part of our culture, is to not receive goals, and whether that's at home or it's on the road, that's just something we are trying to define ourselves by. To get those clean sheets over the last three games, those are very important for us, and obviously two of those come on the road and this time we were able to get some goals to get a big road win for us, first win of the season.”
The 37-year-old Bornstein came on as an attacking substitute Saturday night and scored a late insurance goal to secure the Fire's first win of the season.
“It was good to see that he could come in and help us like that,” Hendrickson said. “He’s still a big part of this team. He's not a week-in, week-out starter, but as you see tonight, he's going to have very, very important minutes on this team.”
Hendrickson promised an attractive brand of attacking soccer when he was named head coach, and while the weather conditions Saturday night didn’t lend itself to the beautiful game, winning with grit was massive.
“It was good to see that we are a team that can battle when we need to, and we're not just a nice, pretty soccer-playing team,” Hendrickson said. “We’re a team that if it calls for it, we can fight. So that was good to see from the guys tonight.”
Gaga Slonina, the 17-year-old goalkeeper, made four saves as Chicago have kept three consecutive clean sheets for the first time since May 2019.
Now they'll chase four in a row for the first time since July 2009 when hosting Sporting Kansas City at Soldier Field this coming Saturday (6 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US, DAZN in Canada).
“We have to keep this going and we have to keep this up defensively,” center back Wyatt Omsberg said. “Goals are going to come, we know that. But as long as we stay strong defensively, we'll have a chance to win every game.”