In some ways, the Fire’s home opener Saturday was what fans hoped for when Joe Mansueto bought the franchise in 2019. Yet the forgettable 0-0 tie against Orlando City showed how much work still remains.
Xherdan Shaqiri, a well-known and big-money designated player, suited up as part of a roster that seemingly had been improved during a busy offseason in which the Fire flexed their financial muscle. Freed from the disastrous Fire crown logo and that failed rebrand, the franchise embraced a return to red as its primary color with signage around the field, even though the home jersey won’t be that color until 2024.
The announced crowd of 25,477 — the second-largest for a home opener in team history — exuded anticipation when Shaqiri was on the ball. Even the rest of the night, the fans were engaged and enthusiastic, starting with a new pregame flag-waving tradition led Saturday by club legend DaMarcus Beasley.
‘‘[The atmosphere] was great,’’ midfielder Mauricio Pineda said. ‘‘For me, playing at home, it’s great to see a crowd like that. At one point, the game was paused and I saw a wave going around the stadium, so that was amazing. It’s amazing to see that type of atmosphere at our game, so we’re excited to have more of that in the upcoming home games.’’
In his first home game, Shaqiri — who was unavailable for comment after the game — once again played all 90 minutes and led the Fire with four created chances. He also paced them with 11 passes completed in the final third.
Those passes and chances, however, didn’t lead to anything, and the scoreless draw was probably not what anybody wanted to see. In a game with few clear opportunities, the closest anybody came to scoring was in the 73rd minute, when a shot by Orlando City’s Junior Urso deflected off Fire defender Boris Sekulic and past goalie Gabriel Slonina. After review, however, it was determined that Orlando City’s Ercan Kara handled the ball in the setup, taking the goal off the scoreboard.
‘‘I guess that’s why you have [video assistant referee], to help in situations like that,’’ said Fire coach Ezra Hendrickson, who was making his home debut. ‘‘I’ll have to go back and look at it to be clear about it, but when he brought [the ball] down, I thought maybe he trapped it with both arms. Thank God for VAR, I guess.”
The result was the second consecutive scoreless draw for the Fire to begin the season, following their tie Feb. 26 at Inter Miami. How that looks depends on your view: It’s good for the Fire that their defensive woes from the last few seasons haven’t cropped up, but they are struggling to score after a preseason in which the offense didn’t click.
‘‘[The lack of goals] is not too concerning because I think we have enough quality to get some goals,’’ Hendrickson said. ‘‘I think the goals will come. Had we been sitting here after a 3-3 tie, I wouldn’t have liked that. Not that I like a 0-0 tie, but at least we’re doing the defensive part of it, and we’re keeping that intact.’’
The Fire didn’t stay intact after last season, bringing in Hendrickson and overhauling the attack. Clearly, not everything has clicked so far.
‘‘This is something that’s going to go step-by-step,’’ defender Miguel Navarro said through a translator. ‘‘We have a new coach with new ideas, and I think with each game we’re going to start getting better and find our rhythm.’’
NOTE: Defender Carlos Teran (right thigh) missed his second consecutive game and once again was replaced in the starting lineup by Wyatt Omsberg.