Chicago Fire FC played postseason spoiler to Eastern Conference counterparts FC Cincinnati on Saturday night with a 3-2 victory on the road. 18-year-old forward Jhon Durán scored a pair of goals to push his season total to a team-high eight, and was joined on the scoresheet by 19-year-old Brian Gutiérrez. Following the match, Durán and Head Coach Ezra Hendrickson talked through the performance with members of the media. Read their quotes in full below:
Chicago Fire FC Quotes
Chicago Fire FC Head Coach Ezra Hendrickson
On whether there was any concern about how the team would come out, considering the relatively low stakes for the team, and his thoughts on the performance tonight…
“You know, I thought up until the last maybe 10, 15 minutes or so, the performance is how we want to play. It's not easy coming into an environment like this, hostile environment. They still have playoff hopes and missing a lot of key players. But the guys were up to the task tonight. Even in the first half we played some good football.
We were a little slow, and the ball, didn't move it as quickly as we'd like to, especially once we got into the front half. But all in all I thought it was a good game. Don't like to give up two goals like that. Gave us flashbacks, you know, on the sideline. But that's something we have to improve on and I think that's just going to come with being together, finding a way of finishing games out. Fortunately for us tonight, we end up winning the game. All in all, good game but just some things that we still have to work on.”
On Jhon Durán’s and Brian Gutiérrez’s performances tonight and what their ceiling is…
“Well, they are both -- I've said this from the beginning, they both have very, very high ceilings. If we talk about Jhon, he is a player that, once he gets it all together, he can be a really, really special player. He has all the tools. Guti, as well, he's a very good player; his vision, his ability on the ball. He needs to get a little stronger on the ball and sometimes maybe see some things a little quicker. But the ceiling is very, very high for both of those guys, and you know, that's why they are playing.
When guys show in practice that they are ready to step on the pitch and play, they will get minutes, and these two have especially excelled throughout the year and we like the progress that they have been making and it showed tonight. Jhon Durán, he's a very tough guy to handle for defenders in this league, and we expect that from him going forward.”
On how this victory can create momentum for 2023…
“Well, that's the idea behind it all. You know, once we were out of the playoffs mathematically, we talked to the players about these next three games. You know, the Leon game, Cincinnati and then next week against New England, we wanted to end on a positive note. Because we know deep down, a lot of these teams that are ahead of us, we gave points to, you know, Cincy being one of them, at our place, an own-goal and a late giveaway on the top of our 18. So we wanted to rectify that, avenge that. So we came here; we knew it wasn't going to be easy. This is a very good team. They have shown it all year. That's why they are still in the playoff hunt. Really well-coached team.
And the environment, it's amazing. What was said to the players was listen, let's use this environment and use this crowd to our advantage. You know, get an early one, get a goal, get up 1, 2-nothing and then take the crowd out of the game. The crowd stayed in the game. But for us ending on a positive note, it's something that we want to do. It's not over. We still have to go and play against New England, a team that we also thought, first game against them, we make that penalty and then come out of there with three points and maybe we are still alive in this thing. We also want to avenge that.
A lot of times this year, we fell short by our own undoing and we wanted to make sure that whenever we play those teams again that we got the points back. Same was with Miami, and then with Toronto, and we were able to do that. We weren't able to do it against the Red Bulls and against Columbus, and I think if we got those two back, then we would be in a different position now. That's still in the back of our mind.
So it's easy to stay positive because we know what it is that's happened to us this year. It's mainly us, just kind of falling apart in second halves, and that's something that we are going to work on and try to get better at, and I know once these players get enough experience, it's going to be much much easier to see games out. That comes with the maturity of players, and we have a lot of young players, and they are learning on the job, so to speak. But we'll be better for it. Football was really, really good tonight. I like the passing, the spacing at times was too slow like I said before, but we are heading in the right direction, and that's good to see. The players, we are missing very, very key players tonight, but the players that we had went out and did the job and I commend them for that, and we still have one more to go next week.”
On his thoughts regarding Spencer Richey’s performance tonight and whether he has thought about which goalkeeper will start against New England next weekend…
“Well, for obvious reasons, we are not going to expose that to the rest of the teams or to New England, specifically. But we have a plan going into the last game of the season, and you'll know that maybe about Thursday or Friday next week.
But I thought Richey did well tonight. One of the reasons why we wanted to play him tonight is because this is a place where he played before. Brady has never played in a game, and we thought maybe this game might be a little too huge for his debut, because you have to be very careful how you initiate a young player like that, so to speak, especially in that position. We knew it was going to be hostile and we knew they were going to come out on the attack.
So we wanted to make sure that for his sake, we didn't put him in the lion's den, so to speak. But going into next week, we have a plan, and like I said, we'll expose that later on in the week. For now, I just want to say that I thought Richey did well tonight. He came up with some saves when he had to, and we got the win. So all is well.”
Chicago Fire FC Forward Jhon Durán
On the win and the performance considering how much Cincinnati had to play for compared to the Fire…
“Thanks very much for the well wishes and for having me here. I think you can see that from the very beginning, the team worked really hard from minute one until the very end, and there at the end we suffered a little bit, things got a little bit hard on us, but we all worked together really hard. It was a good team effort. We always go into these games working hard and trying to move forward and do the best that we can.
I think that you can see that it was a very good team effort tonight. We have been working hard from the beginning. You can see the last games and the previous games, we went out and no one ever wants to lose. Everyone always goes out trying to win. We are continuing to work forward to keep doing the right things, and we are never giving up. So we are going to keep working at 100 percent.”
On having five goals in the last four matches and how he can carry that strong form into 2023…
“It's just putting in the work. The hard work of the team also helps me but mostly it's wanting to do the right things and to keep working hard so that you can keep doing the right things. And also, it's listening to people around you. There are people that are very important around you who are always trying to help you, so you have to listen to them as well.
But it's going to just be working hard this year. Unfortunately we are not in the playoffs but we have to continue to work and continue to do things right. So we are going to continue working so things can keep going right and we can keep improving.”
On his week playing with the Colombian National Team and how he carried that into tonight’s match…
“It was lovely. There were really great days, being able to share that moment with my country and being on the full national team. As a player, you learn from everyone, learn from all your experiences, and there you learn even more. So I went, I worked hard and I came back and here they received me always, in the best way possible. So I'm just going to keep working with all of my teammates, working hard to keep going forward so that we can go into 2023 in the best way possible and be able to get into the playoffs.”
On how tonight’s match helps him going into the 2023 season…
“I don't think that any team ever wants to lose. We are always working toward winning and to be able to win the games, and maybe throughout the season, the results didn't quite go our way. But we are continuing to work hard, and this win, even though it is a little bit late, it gives us confidence so that we can keep working and to keep looking forward and be more united.”