Chicago Fire channel "must-win" mentality during unbeaten streak


Chicago Fire FC aren’t out of the woods just yet. But they’re certainly trending in the right direction.

Head coach Frank Klopas drilled home that message after Saturday’s 4-1 win at Toronto FC, a comprehensive performance that moved Chicago to four games unbeaten (2W-0L-2D).

The counter-balance? Chicago are still two points below the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs line, sitting 11th in the Eastern Conference. The club last made the postseason in 2017.

“I told the guys, before even this four-game run, that our mentality has to change in every game,” Klopas said. “We have to approach every game like it's a must-win, like we are fighting to survive. There's no relegation battle here, but we have to approach every game with that kind of mindset.

“You're right, we're still fighting to get to the playoffs. We've got an uphill battle, and we have a long way to go. We are not going to get there if we don't continue to work hard, be together and put [in] a lot of effort.

“Tonight is great, but I told the players, ‘Look at the mentality and effort that you put in. Everyone has to pay that kind of price in order for us to reach our goal.’"

The Matchday 20 result was Chicago’s first road win of the season, getting goals from four different players: attackers Hugo Cuypers and Maren Haile-Selassie, defender Allan Arigoni, and defender/midfielder Mauricio Pineda. It was also the club’s first win at Toronto’s BMO Field since 2012.

Cuypers’ strike stood as the game-winner, giving him six goals on the year. The club-record signing has scored in three straight matches, showing glimpses of why he arrived in February for a reported $12 million base transfer fee from Belgian top-flight side Gent.

“I think he probably felt pressure in the beginning, not getting the goals,” Klopas said of Cuypers. “He was getting opportunities, but I think maybe overthinking a little bit at times. I think now, his ability to get goals in games and opportunities, you can just see he's not overthinking things.

“I keep telling him, ‘You're fast. You get a lot of opportunities and moments where you can press. You're a link-up player where you can get it and lay it off. Your strength is not to get the ball, turn and try to beat three or four guys. That's not your game.’ And also he's getting adjusted to the league and we are getting a little more used to him – players on the field, how to best play him.”

For Chicago, this stretch has coincided with star midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri representing Switzerland at Euro 2024. The DP No. 10 has been hit or miss since arriving in 2022, and recent reports suggest he could depart the Fire this summer.

Whatever awaits with Shaqiri, Chicago have their first winning streak of 2024 in tow. It could continue next Saturday when visiting Orlando City SC (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).

“We've got to stay grounded,” Klopas said. “It was a very good performance. But now it's about consistency. We know what we can do, but I know that our ceiling is much higher. The players can give a lot more. That's my belief.”