Even with a new attitude, the Fire can’t snap their MLS losing streak

CHICAGO – These are times of struggle that are reminicent of the days when the team was rebuilding just a few years back. Now they’ve returned a year after the team had what looked like a breakthrough.

They came into Saturday losing six-straight games in the MLS. They lost their semifinal game of the US Open Cup on Wednesday to the Philadelphia Union – who scored three goals in the final 30 minutes for the victory.

On top of that, the club is currently going through a battle with one of their main supporter groups at Toyota Park. 

Yet during this difficult time for the Chicago Fire, head coach Veljko Paunovic tried to bring the team together to get refocused after Wednesday’s loss in the US Open Cup, one he detailed on Saturday.

“Yesterday, in this room, we had a meeting where we all committed that we will play all the games until the end, giving our best,” said Paunovic of the Friday meeting that took place at Toyota Park. “No matter what happens, we’ll give our best. I saw the change today, I think not only the attitude, the focus, the urgency, the organization and that look in the eyes of our guys was different.”

Unfortunately it produced a similar result for the coach, though it was competitive from start to finish. Facing the New York Red Bulls – the second-best team in the MLS – the Fire yielded only one second half goal, yet it was enough to send them to a 1-0 defeat – their seventh straight in league play.

Bradley Wright-Phillips, the second-leading goal scorer in the MLS, notched the only goal of the game when a Fire turnover led to a pass inside the box and an easy tap-in for the goal. Just like Wednesday night against the Union, the home team couldn’t find the back of the net, as their record on the year falls to 6-14-5.

It’s another defeat in a long string of them for a team that hasn’t won since June. But there were some positives, like the second half return of Michael de Leeuw, who made his 2018 debut after losing most of the season to a torn ACL suffered last season.

For Paunovic, it was the attitude that stood out the most, even if it didn’t produce points.

“I know it might sound crazy for some of you guys and some people, but I’m proud of their efforts today and I know that playing like this, we’re going to win games,” said Paunovic. “The sooner the better obviously, but this is the attitude that we have to keep, and this is the way we are going to be from now on. Nine games, nine finals.

“We’ll give in every one of them our best and for sure we’re going to change this curse of losing games.”

If they hope to keep playing after the end of the regular season, they’ll have to sooner than later.