BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — Where do the Fire go from here?
Chicago were embarrassed on Sunday, looking flat, unorganized and sloppy in one of their worst performances of the season, a 4-2 loss at the last-place Vancouver Whitecaps.
The loss drops the struggling Fire further down the playoff pecking order, putting them 10 points — and six teams — behind Chivas USA for the 10th and final postseason spot. The Eastern Conference bottom-feeders still have a ways to go before they’re mathematically eliminated from contention, but they know that they have no more room for error if they want to avoid missing the playoffs for the second straight year.
“It is probably a long shot,” Fire captain Logan Pause said Tuesday when asked about the team’s playoff hopes, “especially when you see that we’ve only had two wins this year. I think the priority now is to take care of one game at a time. We understand that draws really are not helping us now. We need to get wins.”
Doing so will be even more difficult in the wake of the Vancouver loss, a game that the Fire considered winnable.
“This past game, it was a real big punch on our expectations,” added Fire defender Gonzalo Segares. “We keep letting opportunities slip by and we’re getting less and less chances to climb up that ladder. We’ve got to turn this around quickly because pretty soon we’re going to run out of chances to get to the playoffs and we’re going to see ourselves just like last year.”
Though the Fire are doing their best to keep their heads up, the fact that their season is on the line is wearing on the group. Chicago were as down as they’ve been all year on Tuesday, with multiple players looking and sounding relatively forlorn.
Pause wasn’t one of those players, doing his best to lead and encourage his teammates through their short training session. But while he wasn’t as visibly discouraged as some of the other players, Pause certainly understands the team’s plight just as well, telling MLSsoccer.com that every player’s job is at stake.
“We as individuals need to understand that this is a job and that we’re playing for jobs,” Pause said. “If this is another year that we don’t make the playoffs, they could be cleaning house again — every single one of us, including myself, [would be at risk]. So there needs to be a sense of urgency, a sense of pride and hopefully, we all know 10 points is a stretch, but it’s not impossible. You get a couple of good results against a couple of teams in your conference or that are also chasing the same thing and those can be six point swings.”
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.