BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — His team didn’t get the win they needed, but that didn’t stop Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas from gushing about Chicago’s performance after their 1-1 draw with the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday night.
“I’m very pleased with the performance of the team,” Klopas said. “I thought we had a sense of urgency right from the start. There was a commitment from the whole group and … I thought we played very well. I thought the team created opportunities and we moved the ball well. Disappointed, obviously, not to get three points at home, but I’m very pleased with the performance of the team and how we’re coming together.”
Two main reasons for Klopas’ positive attitude were the performances of new midfielders Sebastián Grazzini and Pável Pardo. Both players had very solid MLS debuts, with Grazzini playing the center attacking midfield role to perfection in his 65 minutes and Pardo scoring the Fire’s lone goal in his full 90.
“You can see their quality and what they bring to the team and I was very pleased with that,” Klopas said.
Grazzini was particularly impressive. The Argentine midfielder, who made his Fire debut in Chicago’s July 23 Herbalife World Football Challenge match against Manchester United but hadn’t played in the league until Wednesday, was all over the field, passing well and playing quickly until he was subbed off due to fatigue in the 66th minute.
“He has the ability to create and beat players and make the final pass,” Klopas said of Grazzini. “He’s dangerous, he’s exciting for the fans to watch, and he definitely brings something different to the table.”
Klopas was also pleased with Pardo, who took advantage of a failed Philadelphia clearance to score the equalizer eight minutes into the second half.
“[He was] fantastic,” Klopas said of the newest Fire. “It was just fantastic to see his first game what he did. And not just because he scored the goal, even if he didn’t, the leadership qualities on the field and how good he was with the ball [was great].
“In the first half, he made a great pass to [forward Dominic Oduro] that was a breakaway if Dom brings the ball down,” Klopas added. “Stuff like that gives us another attacking dimension, but also his leadership qualities in the middle of the park are great.”
Though Pardo’s and Grazzini’s performances were encouraging, and although the Fire outplayed the Union, the team didn’t get the three points they needed. They’re still tied for last in the Eastern Conference and they’re still well behind Houston for the 10th and final playoff spot.
It doesn’t help any that time’s running out. Chicago only have 13 games left to salvage their season, and, while they know it’s possible, they know they need to make things happen starting this weekend at Vancouver if they’re to have any hope of returning to the playoffs.
“It was frustrating,” Fire defender Gonzalo Segares told MLSsoccer.com. “I think that’s just like the story of how this whole season’s been: we’re creating chances and I think that they had one shot on goal and it was a goal.
“It hurts a lot because we put a lot into it and we gave 100 percent,” he added. “Everybody on the field and I think that we deserved to win, but it’s not always about deserving but putting [the ball] into the net. I think that we looked pretty good today, but it’s always hard to drop points, especially with the position that we are in. We just got to keep working — that’s the only thing that we can do.”
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.