Fire's Paunovic frustrated by pace of improvement after draw vs Columbus

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Veljko Paunovic admitted his Chicago Fire side still have “a long way to go” as they failed to see out another game from a winning position in their 2-2 tie with Columbus Crew SC at Toyota Park on Thursday night.

The hosts were well worth their 2-1 lead approaching the 80th-minute mark after a Michael Parkhurst own goal and Michael de Leeuw’s fifth goal of the regular season saw them overturn Adam Jahn’s 13th-minute opener.

However, a late onslaught from the visitors saw Jahn add a second with 10 minutes to go, setting up a grandstand finish in which both sides might’ve found a winner.

The tie extended the Fire’s winless streak to six games, one that began after a 3-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union on September 3.

“I think we all know where we are,” Paunovic said at his postgame press conference. “I think we could see improvements in our team and things that we still have to [do] better. I think that has been the whole year the same process, the same things to do to improve. Still a long way to go.”

After seeing his side fail to add to their league low-tying five home victories, the Serbian insisted the focus must turn to Sunday's home finale against playoff-chasing New England (3 pm ET, MLS LIVE).

“The people who are coming, the crowd, our supporters, they suffered too much and we have to give them in that last game everything we have to win the game,” Paunovic said. “I think that’s very important.”

The Fire impressed in spells throughout a tightly-fought game, especially in the second half following the introduction of 6-foot-4 Armenian striker David Arshakyan. The forward shared in his side’s disappointment at failing to hang on to three points.

“It doesn’t matter what I think about this game because it’s done,” he said. “It has been too many times we’ve been through this. Now it only matters the next game. I want to see our guys working hard and giving our best to win the game. That’s all I want for the next game and we have to do everything to do that.”

Arturo Alvarez, who moved to a team-leading eight assists with his fine run and pass to set de Leeuw up for the Fire’s second goal, acknowledged the telling difference made by substitute Arshakyan.

“He’s a big guy, a big presence on the field,” Alvarez said. “We made sure that we took advantage of his size and it opened up a little bit of space for the guys on the wings.”