"That's inexcusable": Chicago lose undefeated status after Brian Gutierrez's card at Orlando

As halftime approached Saturday afternoon at Exploria Stadium, Chicago Fire FC homegrown midfielder Brian Gutierrez was admirably filling the shoes created by Xherdan Shaqiri’s injury (calf) absence.

But the 18-year-old US youth international was shown a second yellow card in the 43rd minute, putting the visitors a man down at Orlando City SC. Referee Victor Rivas had first booked Gutierrez for blocking a free kick in the 5th minute, then for fouling Lions’ midfielder César Araujo.

Reduced to 10 men, the Fire eventually conceded when Orlando DP forward Ercan Kara nodded home his first MLS goal in the 59th minute. And thus the Windy City side lost their first match of 2022, 1-0, after going five games undefeated, allowing just their second goal of the season.

“A big learning moment,” head coach Ezra Hendrickson said of Gutierrez’s red card. “And what I told the guys after is, yes, it might have been a difficult call on the second yellow.

“But that first yellow is something that he has to learn from, and all the other players have to learn from. You know, that's a really poor yellow to get, standing in front of the ball, trying to block the free kick like that. You know, that's inexcusable. So hoping he learns from that, because that's what really did him in.”

Gutierrez was likely never going to fully impersonate Shaqiri, the $7.5 million transfer from Ligue 1’s Lyon who’s bound for the 2022 World Cup with Switzerland. But now in his third professional season and with 29 first-team appearances under his belt, it was a consequential moment for the youngster.

Hendrickson noted Chicago “weren't going to go 34 games undefeated,” though that doesn’t detract from the sting of their trip to Florida. Now, they’ll regroup after falling from the ranks of the unbeaten (previously 2W-0L-3D) before next weekend's visit from the LA Galaxy.

“I think Ezra was proud of the shift we put in,” goalkeeper Gaga Slonina. “Obviously it was pretty difficult going down a man but I think guys stepped in and played their roles. I think on a different day, it comes out as a different result. But Ezra is proud of us and he wants us to keep our heads up, focus on the next game and make sure we do everything we can to recover and train and be ready for the next game.”