Fire No Strangers to Cellar

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(Photo courtesy soundersfc.com)

 

Right around the time the Chicago Fire had racked up 3:0 victories over Montreal and Philadelphia, coach Veljko Paunovic declared that his team had turned a corner, and that observers would be surprised by the Fire’s performances going forward. With just one point in their last four matches, there is nothing surprising nor promising about the Fire. Wednesday’s 1:0 loss at Seattle merely confirmed how far this team still has to go before they can be consistently competitive. Once something breaks down, very little seems to go right.

Paunovic put out what is likely his strongest 11 versus Seattle. Brandon Vincent and Jonathan Campbell returned to the starting lineup, allowing Johan Kappelhof to slide over to right back, a position from which he can make a maximum contribution. An improvement on the defensive side was essential for the Fire, who looked ragged, disheveled and disorganized against New York. Restoring a stable back four was a key element towards improvement. Seattle dominated possession and did create a handful of nervous moments for the Fire, but the back four held together reasonably well. Goalkeeper Sean Johnson was a key performer in this effort. He generally controlled his box with authority and registered several important saves.

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NYC Leave Fire Defense In Tatters

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(Photo courtesy nycfc.com)

It took only a New York minute for NYCFC to take total control over the Chicago Fire in Friday’s match at Yankee Stadium. In those brief seconds, a scoreless match became 2:0 for NYC, and the two punches to the gut left the Fire on the canvas. They spent the remainder of the match searching for answers and wound up finding few, leaving New York 4:1 losers. For anyone who watched this match with eyes open, it was evident that the final score very much flattered the Fire.

Sure, the Fire had a spell of positive soccer in the latter part of the first half, and yes, Luis Solignac’s balletic header to bring the Fire to within 2:1 might have given the most dreamy-eyed optimists a sliver of hope. But NYC had been plowing through the Fire defense right from the jump, and only some poor shooting and several important Sean Johnson interventions prevented the score from reaching epically embarrassing proportions.

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This Song Is Too Familiar

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(Photo courtesy Mike Di Novo USA Today Sports)

The Chicago Fire thought that they had done enough to earn victory over DC United on Friday after having built a solid 2:1 lead in the first half. They were not successful in finding that crucial third goal to provide some cushion, and DC scratched out an equalizer in the third minute of second-half stoppage time. The Fire ended their three-game stretch of home matches with a disappointing total of four points, as they continue to languish in the depths of the Eastern Conference table.

The Fire proved once again how sensitive their fortunes are when they give away goals cheaply. DC’s first goal was just such a scenario and it forced the Fire to make an uphill climb that seems to be part of the script every week. As it often happens, the ending of the story is not a happy one.

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3 Things About the Fire’s Loss to TFC

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(Photo courtesy chicago-fire.com)

The Chicago Fire went down 2:1 to Toronto FC last Saturday in disappointing fashion. Here are three thoughts about how the game went and what could have gone differently for the Fire.
The Fire continue to battle

Yes, the Fire are still mired in the depths of the Eastern Conference standings. Yes, the people in the Fire locker room are probably the only ones who don’t think that playoff talk is silly. But this team continues to bring the fight every week.The only thing that is a realistic motivator for the players at this point is that they are auditioning for jobs on the 2017 roster. The players seem to be buying into coach Veljko Paunovic’s undying optimism concerning the team’s fortunes.

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Fire Get Back on Winning Track

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(Photo courtesy chicago-fire.com)

If any psychological demons remained in the Chicago Fire’s locker room following their 6:2 debacle at RFK Stadium last week, they were exorcised on Saturday when the Fire swept the Philadelphia Union out of town by a resounding 3:0 scoreline. The Fire played some attractive soccer at times, and were competent on both sides of the ball. Goalkeeper Sean Johnson came up big in crucial moments. The mix of these successful ingredients resulted in three points and the Fire nudged their way past Columbus to escape the Eastern Conference cellar.

Fire General Manager Nelson Rodriguez described the result versus DC United as an anomaly during a media conference call last week. After that feeble effort, it was hard to tell whether the match truly was an exception, or whether the Fire’s recent string of improving performances was nothing more than a mirage.

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