Fire all but out after half-hearted effort against Dallas

Sebastián Grazzini and Jackson tangle

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BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – The math says they’re still alive, but don’t be fooled: The Chicago Fire’s season is over.

Chicago didn’t play like a team that desperately needed a win to keep their playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night, turning in a very uninspired performance to fall to FC Dallas 2-1 at Toyota Park.

WATCH: Full Match Highlights

The loss leaves the 13th-place Fire six points out of the playoff race with just two games remaining – and only a miracle will put Chicago in the postseason now.

“Obviously we’re disappointed, very disappointed,” Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas said after the match. “To lose at home and now have the chances of the playoffs be very slim [is hard].”

The match was a painful yet potent reminder of how the Fire’s season has gone. Just like they did at the start of the year, Chicago came out flat on Wednesday. And, similar to their late season turnaround, the Fire didn’t get into the game until far too late, not registering a legitimate opportunity until Sebastián Grazzini’s 86th-minute consolation goal.

“We didn’t come out ready to play,” Fire right back Dan Gargan told MLSsoccer.com after the game. “We didn’t come out ready to go at a team that we really needed to beat. I thought we were slow getting started and I don’t think we really attacked the team until we were down 2-0.

“I don’t think it’s realistic for us to expect to win a game and just be able to turn it on whenever we feel like turning it on,” Gargan added. “That’s not the type of team that we are and I don’t think we can expect the same kind of results if we don’t bring the same type of intensity and attitude that we have been for a whole 90 minutes.”

No Chicago player or coach offered up too many reasons why the team came out so flat in such an important match, though there were a few hints that last week’s US Open Cup final loss at Seattle left the squad emotionally drained.

But that doesn’t excuse how the Fire played against Dallas. The team failed to get anything going on offense, struggled with FCD’s speed in defense and gave up a couple of soft goals – the first of which ‘keeper Sean Johnson, who had played so well recently, took full responsibility for after the game.

“I don’t want to use any excuses, but I think it’s probably obvious that [the Open Cup loss was] a bit of a letdown that kind of burst our bubble a little bit,” Gargan said.  “But we still needed ... to come out and play a game at home that we needed to get three points from and we didn’t come out strong enough, we didn’t come out fast enough and that’s nobody’s fault but our own.”

Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at sam.h.stejskal@gmail.com.