Conceding an injury-time equalizer is a less than pleasant experience at the best of times. For the Chicago Fire, who saw a 92nd-minute goal from the New York Red Bulls' Brian White cost them a vital three points that would have taken them back above the playoff line ahead of facing three of their final four games of the regular season on the road, the experience was a particularly painful one.
"It's disappointing," said Chicago goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth of the 2-2 draw. "I think we played well tonight. I think the club did what they wanted to do and a couple of our chances were a bit unlucky, but also, loads of stuff we could have done better and need to do better."
With Chicago yet to win a true away match this season (outside of the MLS is Back Tournament), playing their next three games outside of its city limits couldn't have come at a worse time with the 10th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference still very much up for grabs. That's not to mention the fact that the first of those three matches is at the Philadelphia Union, who put fellow Supporters' Shield hopeful Toronto FC to the sword in a 5-0 thrashing at Subaru Park.
Perhaps the most frustrating part for the Fire is how close some of the results have been this year. Three of their last five matches have finished level, meaning plenty of valuable points down the stretch have been left on the table.
"I feel like we have had some unfortunate bounces for some goals, deflections," added Shuttleworth. "I feel like this season ... I can't even count how many deflections that end up in really good chances for them. That being said, there are obviously a lot of things that we could do better and we're still learning each other."
Despite the draw, the Fire are looking forward to a quick turnaround to take on a Union team on Wednesday (7:30 pm ET | TV & streaming info) that has put together a five-match unbeaten streak, taking 13 of a possible 15 points in that stretch. The feeling among the group is that if it can string together some results to get itself into the postseason, anything can happen.
"I think in this league, anyone can beat anyone," said Shuttleworth. "We're sitting where we are, and there's no getting around it, but it's not as if we're getting blown out in every game we're in, every single game. I think the mood in the dressing room reflects that. We feel we're close ... I think we feel positive and if we can get on a little run here, we can beat any team in the league."
It's the overall parity of MLS, Chicago head coach Raphael Wicky said, that sets it apart from other top-flight leagues worldwide and that encourages him even as the Fire travel to Chester to take on the current MLS top dogs.
"Anyone can beat anyone here, which is very unique [and] doesn't happen in other big leagues," he said. "We know that we can go away from home and we know that we can win games. We know that we have a good team and we can beat these teams. We haven't shown it this year, but we have shown moments and we have games where we shouldn't have lost away, and now it's up to us to step up and go away from home and get a result."
And, despite the deep disappointment from how things ended on Saturday, Wicky continues to be encouraged by the performance of his team, who had bounced back fro a 1-0 deficit against the Red Bulls to go within seconds of beating a Red Bulls team that have now lost just twice in their last eight games.
"I really see progress in this team," Wicky said. "I believe in this team and I've seen progress in the last two-and-a-half months, three months for this team. Going forward, if we can finish the season the way we want, I really [am] positive for the next year."