Looking to add a jolt to his attack in the second half of Saturday's visit from Seattle, Chicago Fire head coach Veljko Paunović called upon 2019 newcomer Fabian Herbers.
Entering the match for fellow forward Nemanja Nikolić in the 71st minute, Herbers was tasked with helping the Fire claw back from what was then a 3-1 deficit with time ticking away.
Thirteen minutes later, he did just that. The 25-year-old scored his first official goal in a Fire shirt (he scored once in the preseason Carolina Challenge Cup) and his first goal in MLS regular season action since May 13, 2017 to help cut the Sounders' lead to one in the 84th minute.
The sequence began with Herbers beating his defender to a deflected Przemysław Frankowski cross inside the 18-yard box, and putting a close-range shot into the path of an on-rushing Stefan Frei. Despite the initial save, Herbers stuck with the play and drove the loose ball past the last line of defense to provide the Fire a lifeline in the match.
“It always feels good,” he said. “A little bit of a sore background with the loss, but it feels good to get on the scoresheet. I hope to help next time for a win.”
With the game wide open following the goal, Seattle would add a late tally to push the score to 4-2 at the final whistle. The 25-year-old took four shots in his 19-minute cameo and put two of them on frame in what was his second-straight appearance off the bench.
“Fabi gave us a lot when he came in,” midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger noted to the press postgame, commenting on the adjustments the Fire made as the match wore on.
“(I) come in, try to put everything out there for the last minutes that I get, and try to help the team out to get a result,” Herbers added.
In addition to Herbers, earlier substitutes Raheem Edwards and Brandt Bronico helped implement Paunović’s tactical adjustments to allow the team to better control possession and push Seattle as they searched for ways to narrow a 3-0 deficit. Edwards provided a sizable impact of his own off the bench, getting the Fire on the board in his 2019 debut with a headed finish in the 56th minute.
“I thought the team pushed very hard towards the end,” Herbers said. “Unfortunately, we got a late goal against us and the game was pretty much over. I felt like we showed again good morale with the team and could have gotten almost away with a tie after being 3-0 down.”
Despite the final score, the Fire did well to get opportunities on net against Seattle. Frei was forced into a number of highlight reel saves as the Fire registered an eye-catching 25 total shots on the final stat sheet. Paunović and co. will undoubtedly continue to explore ways to finish the amount of opportunities they’re generating through three matches played.
Through the small sample size of the season's first three games, the Fire’s 35 total chances created in 2019 represent the fourth-most in MLS and are on par with the best per-game averages recorded by the Club in the Opta era (2009-present).
Certainly, the expectation is that goal-scoring opportunities will only continue to manifest after the impending arrival of Nicolás Gaitán, and Herbers is hoping to continue getting his chances to put them away.
“That’s what I’m there for," he said. "I try to help the team get a result.”