Fire beat Sporting Kansas City 3-1, off to best start since 2009

Kacper Przybylko scored twice and Xherdan Shaqiri added a goal and two assists to give the Fire eight points through four games for the first time since 2009.

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Kacper Przybylko celebrates the Fire’s first goal.

Courtesy of the Fire

It’s probably too early to say who the Fire are. Four games certainly isn’t enough time to make any grand judgments about this team’s potential.

However, after their 3-1 win Saturday over Sporting Kansas City, Fire coach Ezra Hendrickson discussed the bonds that are already forming within the group and the impact that could have.

“For us right now, if you look on paper, we’re probably not the most flashy team, but [with] the togetherness and the camaraderie of this team, the unity with this team, it’s going to be hard to beat us,” Hendrickson said. “Every man out there is fighting for each other. That’s good to see. I’ve been on teams where we didn’t have the best team on paper, but on the pitch you couldn’t beat us because everyone was just [in tune] and everyone just fought for each other. That’s what I’m seeing with this team.”

Led by two goals from Kacper Przybylko and another score and two assists from Xherdan Shaqiri, the Fire (2-0-2, 8 points) extended their season-opening unbeaten streak to four. They’ve picked up eight points in their opening four matches for the first time since 2009, the last year they won a playoff game.

Thoughts of replicating that success are still premature, though the Fire are showing signs 2022 could be different than the last few seasons. It looks unlikely they’ll be buried in the Eastern Conference standings like they were last year, and they don’t have to convince themselves they’re on the right track. Instead, they have proof of concept.

“[In] any sport, it’s always better to correct things during the week when you’re playing well and you’re winning in any sport, in any event, in anything that happens,” midfielder Gaston Gimenez said through a translator. “Obviously now we’re all very happy. We’re enjoying this start and emotionally we’re feeling very good, but we also have to remember that we have to calm down because it’s only the start and in the meantime we’re enjoying it very much.”

Getting production from Przybylko and Shaqiri isn’t bad, either.

Shaqiri converted a 50th minute penalty to give the Fire a 2-0 lead, while Przybylko opened the scoring in the 30th. After Sporting KC’s Roger Espinoza tallied to cut the lead in half (and end the Fire’s season-opening shutout streak at 325 minutes), Przybylko virtually clinched the game in the 82nd.

Acquired over the offseason from the Philadelphia Union for $1,150,000 in allocation money, Przybylko had been relatively quiet to start the season but scored his first two for the Fire, and was relieved to get on the board.

He was more pleased by something else, though.

“We’re undefeated and that’s what I’m most happy about,” Przybylko said. “Taking the confidence [from] my own goals, but also [from] the victory.”

Przybylko mentioned how welcome he felt when he first arrived from the Union. That reception meshes well with what Hendrickson said about the team.

“Who knows what can happen with this team, but right now I like the way we’re fighting for each other,” Hendrickson said. “Just good team chemistry is what I can say about this team right now. It’s going to get better. The play is going to get better, but it’s a good start to have that kind of foundation where there’s no agendas.

“Everybody has the same goal, has the same mindset when we step on the pitch. That’s going to take us very far.”

NOTE: Jhon Duran (ankle), who missed the game, is in a walking boot, but Hendrickson hopes he’ll be available April 2 against FC Dallas.

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