After finding themselves in an early hole following two Chivas USA goals midway through the first half, the Chicago Fire were given a boost when Chivas had a player sent off before halftime.
With the knowledge that they would have a man advantage for the last 45 minutes after Paulo Nagamura was sent off with his second yellow card of the match, the Fire looked to spread the Chivas USA defense and fight their way back into the contest and out of their recent run of poor form.
Instead, the Fire's slump persisted and Chivas USA handed the visitors their third consecutive loss -- and fourth loss in five games -- in a 2-0 result at The Home Depot Center on Thursday night.
"What we looked to do and what we did were the complete opposite," said Fire coach Denis Hamlett. "We looked to get the ball wide ... but we really didn't do that. We kept turning balls over in bad spots."
The game plan was well understood by the Fire players but the execution was lacking. With Chivas USA predictably bunkering down in a defensive posture for much of the second half, the Fire were unable to generate many meaningful scoring opportunities.
"We wanted to get it out wide because we knew they were going to pack it in," said Fire forward Chad Barrett. "But we never got it out wide in an advanced position. We didn't execute the plan."
Barrett, though, muffed two golden chances to change the Fire's fortunes.
First, Barrett sent a point-blank shot wide of the goal in the first five minutes of the match. Then, in the 35th minute, Barrett beat Chivas USA Brad Guzan to a loose ball 35 yards from the goal and rounded the 'keeper. Barrett's shot at the open net, though, was off target, epitomizing the Fire's struggles of late.
"I had two good looks on wide-open nets," Barrett said. "I can't miss those and that's my fault. As a team we didn't create many great chances but if I put that first one away it completely alters the game."
Added Hamlett: "Chad had two great looks but we're just not finishing those and it's come back to haunt us."
The loss was the Fire's third in a row and fourth in their last five tries, a stark contrast to the start of the season when they lost only one of their first seven games.
"Two things have changed" in that span, said Hamlett. "We were finishing our chances in the early part of the season and we were making defensive plays. Now we're having breakdowns where we're not making those plays."
The recent stretch of poor performances is the first such stretch the Fire have faced this season.
"We're going through some adversity and it's a little bit new to us this season," said Barrett. "Now we're going to see what we're made of."
The Fire will have time to think things over during its nine-day layoff before their next match at home against San Jose on June 28. Not everyone is looking forward to the rest, though.
"I wish the game was tomorrow," said Barrett. "You never want to wait after losing three straight and four of the last five. You want to get back at it and kick the crap out of the next team that comes through."
Danny Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.