The Chicago Fire entered Sunday’s match at Vancouver low in the table but high on confidence. As long as they played like they had in Wednesday’s 1-1 draw against the Philadelphia Union, when they were bolstered by strong performances from new midfielders Pavel Pardo and Sebastian Grazzini, the Fire thought three points was theirs for the taking.
But Chicago didn’t turn in anything like Wednesday’s encouraging performance on Sunday, struggling from the opening minute – literally; a defensive mistake led to Vancouver’s opener in the first minute of the match – en route to a 4-2 defeat to the expansion ‘Caps.
“We scored two goals but we just made too many mistakes,” head coach Frank Klopas said. “You make mistakes like that and you’re not going to win, especially when you give up four goals on the road.”
The first mistake came when defender Yamith Cuesta whiffed an attempted clearance less than 30 seconds into the match, allowing Vancouver's Eric Hassli to run in on goal and lash a shot into the top right corner.
“He’s just a beast, not only holding balls up, but unbelievable finisher and you saw that today, especially his first goal,” captain Logan Pause said. “He is definitely a handful.”
But the Chicago defense made Hassli and the rest of the Vancouver attack look like world-beaters. Cuesta’s error in the first minute was followed up Josip Mikulic being turned easily by Camilo and then Cuesta’s conceding of a penalty. In the second half, the Fire defense failed to follow up on Camilo’s freekick, and Hassli finished the rebound.
“Defensively it wasn’t collectively out best game, including myself,” goalkeeper Sean Johnson said. “But we have to look forward, we have 12 games left to try and make something happen and we look at it as there is 36 points left out there to be had and we have to go out with the mindset that we are going to get all 36 and make the playoffs.”
Johnson was responsible for the Fire’s best defensive effort on the night, when he stopped Hassli’s penalty attempt just before the halftime break. But Klopas’ side were unable to take advantage of the momentum, and with the loss, remain in the Eastern Conference cellar, ten points behind Chivas USA for the tenth and final postseason spot.
“It’s difficult, it’s hard, what can you say,” Klopas said. “You have to point to the focus and concentration. For some reason, we gave up that fast goal. Hassli took a great shot, but it was way too fast. We scored a goal, but then we gave up the second one. It’s disappointing for sure.”