Chicago Fire head coach Ezra Hendrickson has insisted subbing out Xherdan Shaqiri in Sunday’s 2-1 defeat to the San Jose Earthquakes was purely a precautionary measure.
The Switzerland international was enjoying a productive game, creating three chances and getting one shot on target, but was forced out just after the hour mark with an unclear problem.
The Fire were 1-0 down at the time of Shaqiri’s departure, going on to lose 2-1 as Benji Kikanovic doubled his tally for the day shortly before Brian Gutierrez’s consolation.
Shaqiri has endured a disrupted start to life in Major League Soccer and no doubt Fire supporters will have been worried to see the former Liverpool and Bayern Munich man coming off again. But Hendrickson has moved to dispel any worries about his long-term fitness.
“He’s fine. He just had a little hip injury but I don’t think anything major,” Hendrickson said of Shaqiri, adding: “[He] still has to be seen, but I don’t think anything major. We just wanted to make sure that it didn’t get worse, whatever it is, that was bothering his hip.”
With Shaqiri pulling the strings, the Fire looked more than a match for San Jose during the first half and perhaps should have found themselves ahead at the break. But a familiar theme emerged for Chicago that has haunted them throughout 2022: wasting chances.
Hendrickson knows his side cannot go on passing up opportunities for long if they’re to remain competitive for the rest of the campaign.
“When you are on the road and you create chances like we did in the first half, some clear chances like that, a couple of them alone with the keeper, you’ve got to put those away,” he said. “When you don’t, stuff like this happens because we definitely gave ourselves opportunities to put this game out of reach in the first half and we just didn’t take them.
“That’s something that has been plaguing us all season. We have just 16 goals so far this season. But this game was lost in the first half, not putting them away when we had the chance to.”
This latest defeat leaves the Fire 13th in the Eastern Conference ahead of their home tie with the Columbus Crew on Saturday.