BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – If only the Chicago Fire's games ended after 86 minutes.
The Fire would have beaten Houston on Sept. 1 in a 1-1 game they thought they controlled. They would have gained a valuable road point in Seattle a week later, and Mike Magee's pair of goals in Saturday's 2-2 draw with Montreal would have been enough to vault them into third place in the Eastern Conference.
But in the real world, those last few minutes have played out in excruciating fashion, and the Men in Red have dropped five points this month after the clock struck 86.
“Another one,” Gonzalo Segares said after Saturday's tie. “It's the same way with Houston. It's a game that we could've put away 3, 4-1, but we let them stay around. … We're making mistakes offensively and defensively. We don't put teams away offensively and we don't close them out defensively. It's just a bad mixture.
"It's not that the guys aren't working hard. We're busting our asses. We put our hearts out to come back, and to give it away again is just heartbreaking. This past month has been like that and it's very draining.”
But the month of September will likely be remembered for the missed chances, the untimely mistakes, and the dropped points, especially if the Fire don't make up the two points needed to jump into fifth and qualify for the playoffs.
Despite his frustration, Magee seemed confident on Saturday that Chicago will gain those two points on Philadelphia and leap-frog New England and Columbus.
“We've got to put them away one of these games and take that pressure off the defense,” Magee said. “There's no time to cry or feel bad for ourselves or whatever. We've got four games left, and we're going to make the playoffs.”
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While the results have been deflating, the Fire know they're just a few minutes and a few bounces away from a 3-1-2 record this month that turned into 1-2-2 in the games' dying minutes.
“It’s disappointing what happened at the end of the game, I’m personally very disappointed, but I think there’s a lot of positives that came from this game,” midfielder Patrick Nyarko said on Saturday. “We went down a goal and showed a lot of character to come back in the second half and create a lot of chances to put the game away.
"That’s why I’m not giving up on this season. This team has a lot of character to dig itself out of holes and there are still four games to go and we still have a shot.”