BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — The Chicago Fire entered Saturday night’s match against the Seattle Sounders with a new coach, some new tactics and a whole lot of new confidence.
But, for all that was new around Toyota Park, one thing remained the same: the result.
Despite the best efforts of interim head coach Frank Klopas, who took over for the fired Carlos de los Cobos on Monday, the Fire couldn’t snap their nine-game winless streak Saturday night. They failed to sneak one by in-form Sounders goalie Kasey Keller en route to a 0-0 draw with Seattle.
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“We pushed the game and had some good opportunities,” Klopas said. “But that’s been the story for us right now, we’re always creating opportunities but we’ve got to finish some of those.”
But, unlike last week, when the de los Cobos-led Fire were despondent after tying San Jose, 2-2, at home, Chicago focused on the positives Saturday night.
“I think we played unbelievable today,” Fire midfielder Patrick Nyarko said. “I think they had a couple chances but I think we set the tone, we created the better chances, we gave up nothing in the back and everyone was scrambling and everyone was covering for each other. I thought we played probably our best game this season. We were just unlucky.”
And the Fire did improve. They outplayed the Sounders for most of Saturday’s game, creating more chances and holding a clean sheet against Sigi Schmid’s banged-up bunch. They were much better against set plays and seemed to have more of a focused game plan than they have in previous weeks.
Better still, Nyarko said, all of the players felt individually confident heading into the match — something he said wasn’t always the case under de los Cobos.
“I think almost every guy in this room right now has the confidence to step in and do what he does,” Nyarko said. “In the past there were a few people that had that confidence and a lot of people … going in without that confidence, trying not to make mistakes instead of playing their game. I think that’s what Frank brought in. He gave every guy confidence and guys are stepping in feeling like they can contribute to this team and that’s evident out there.”
All that improvement has the team feeling optimistic about the future – even if it didn’t yield a victory Saturday night.
“We know it hasn’t been good enough,” Fire captain Logan Pause said. “We know we have a long way to go. We also know a couple wins and we’re right back in it. We were hoping tonight we’d get the first one and start to get the ball rolling, but I think it was a good start. ... It’s exciting with a young group; everyone’s energetic and optimistic and hopefully we’ll turn things around.”
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.