A 3-1 home win over Sporting Kansas City on March 19 marked the last time the Fire were victorious before MLS Week 15. They were one game off equaling the club’s longest regular-season winless run of 11 straight, set in April-June 2011 and matched in October 2020 to May 2021.
It feels like forever ago they were among the last undefeated teams in MLS through Week 5 as Chicago had gone 0W-7L-3D since, outscored 19-8 by their opponents over that span.
“It’s a relief,” said Hendrickson in his post-game press conference. “But the last couple of games now we’ve played some really good soccer … we’re just happy that we’ve kind of stopped the bleeding so to speak. We’re looking forward now to our next opponent, going to Houston, and doing the same thing: Playing hard, playing with the mentality that we’re not going to lose. We’re not going to lose. So, this was good for the team tonight, and I’m very, very proud of the boys.”
Even more impressive, the Fire busted out of their slump and earned all three points without two marquee signings in midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri (right thigh) and winger Jairo Torres (left hip) in the lineup. Shaqiri is their club-record signing and just represented Switzerland during the June international window, while Torres is in Mexico's player pool.
Chicago relied on an all-around team performance, with veteran attacker Fabian Herbers heading home the game-winner in the 78th minute for his first goal of the season.
“Every player – the guys who started, the guys who came on – put it in tonight, and that’s what we ask of them,” added Hendrickson. “We’re missing two big pieces tonight in Shaq and Torres, so that always helps when we could have those guys, but the guys who played tonight stepped up and that’s good to see.”
At times, Chicago have felt hard done this season and getting back into the win column is a much-needed morale boost for Hendrickson’s men. Chicago have settled for five draws in 2022, tied for second-most in the Eastern Conference behind the Philadelphia Union's eight.
The victory sees the 14th-place Fire keep pace in a congested East, as they look to get back into the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2017. As of Saturday, they’re just four points back of FC Cincinnati for the seventh and postseason final spot.
“I just want to commend the players, everyone that stepped on the pitch tonight, [for] what they did to secure this victory and make sure that we walked away with three points tonight and not walking away holding our heads again,” concluded Hendrickson. “Hopefully they enjoyed this moment, and it continues like this for some time now.”