Four weeks into the 2021 MLS season, D.C. United and Chicago Fire FC have already encountered losing streaks. Both Eastern Conference clubs have lost three in a row, with D.C. losing by multiple goals in their last two games and Fire FC still winless through four matches.
Now, they'll aim to reverse course against each other at Audi Field on Thursday evening (8 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+), trying to turn their campaign around.
"It has to change as quick as possible," Fire head coach Raphael Wicky said. "We have to start tomorrow with that. That's the reality."
Chicago are scoreless in their last two matches, and over the weekend lost to the Philadelphia Union after twice conceding in a nine-minute span during the second half. The Swiss manager found it particularly frustrating, blaming the poor run of form on small mistakes.
"We're missing on both ends of the field, the little details or stopping these mistakes," Wicky said. "Also, when we have chances, scoring those chances because when things don't go well, you can't expect to have six, seven, eight big chances every time. There are games where you need one or two chances and score and maybe turn things around."
As for D.C. United, they're only four games into the Hernan Losada era. The Black & Red have been hit hard by injuries, though the Argentine manager sees indicators that his system can bear fruit. One encouraging sign is US men's national team midfielder Paul Arriola appears to be nearing his return.
"Even in difficult circumstances in this little storm where we have been through the last few weeks, you have a lot of positive aspects and positive things to build up towards the future," Losada said. "It’s very easy to be friendly with guys who are scoring every week, scoring two, three goals or two, three assists. You have to be with them in the moments that is not happening.
"Again, it’s a collective and the better the collective gets, the better the individuals are going to start playing, so I’m pretty confident that those guys, in a certain moment, will start doing the difference."
During this poor run of form, Wicky feels the onus is fully on his side to correct their mistakes. They won't compete over the weekend, not returning until May 22 against Inter Miami CF.
"We are trying to focus on ourselves," Wicky said. "It doesn't make sense to then talk too much about the opponent because, honestly, it's all about us. It's about what we do. Can we fix these mistakes, little or big mistakes? Can we turn this thing around with the way we play?"
D.C. have a heavier load, hosting Fire FC on Thursday before a quick turnaround against Orlando City SC on Sunday (8 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+), also at Audi Field. Still, their priorities are clearly laid out.
"That was my message to the players: don’t even think about Sunday," Losada said. "Let’s give it all on Thursday."