The Chicago Fire have been gaining momentum over the past two months and, with Decision Day presented by AT&T just a week away, not a moment too soon. Yet, despite a hard-fought point in a 1-1 draw on the road against a hot Nashville SC side on Saturday night, the club was, not for the first time, left to reflect on what might have been.
“We are a little bit upset, a little bit sad, because we felt like we could have taken the three points and come away with the victory, but you know it does give us a good feeling," Fire defender Miguel Angel Navarro said through a translator after the match. "So we leave here with a sensation, a feeling, that we're starting to play better than our opponent and that's what our coach wants. That's the confidence that he's instilled in us. And so now we just keep moving forward."
Chicago came back from a goal down in the first half to level things up right before halftime but, despite dominating the second half and hitting the post late on, couldn't find a game-winner against a Nashville team that has now not lost in 10 games.
“I'm proud of the reaction of the guys in a very difficult place here," Chicago head coach Raphaël Wicky told the media in the postgame press conference. We all know that Nashville is a team who defends very well, doesn’t concede a lot of chances if you look over the whole season—who doesn't concede a lot of goals. We came back, which is not easy against them, coming back away."
Highlights: Nashville SC 1, Chicago Fire FC 1
Despite some impressive performances, Chicago have won just once in their last seven games. And though they remain above the playoff line, their one-point cushion is a precarious one with two games of the regular season remaining.
“Maybe it would be nice for opposing teams to give us a hand and maybe tie or lose — we could use those points — but we are going to keep going on to the field and playing our hardest and doing what we have to do so that we can move forward and make it into playoffs,” Navarro said.
Nashville head coach Gary Smith was full of praise for the quality of Chicago's technical possession play but hinted at key differences between the teams that he believes may explain why, in contrast to the Fire, his team have already clinched a playoff berth in their expansion season.
“You're talking about a team here who base their whole game around possession," Smith said of the Fire. "Now, I said to the guys in there, the reason that we're sitting where we are, and they’re not is because we have other qualities."
While it may be frustrating for the Fire to play so well over these past two months but not get the results they’re looking for, Wicky is clear about one thing. “We believe that we can make the playoffs. I see the progress and the process of this team. And I see a lot of progress."
He added: "Of course we want to go into the playoffs, we know that that certain results would help us to be in a better position … but at the end of the day that’s out of our control."