BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — Chicago’s 2-0 win over Toronto FC on Sunday didn’t just give the struggling club a much-needed three points, it also gave them a big-time boost in confidence.
The Fire really needed a lift in morale. Prior to Sunday’s victory, Chicago hadn’t won in their last 10 league games, a winless stretch that left the team down in the locker room and in the standings.
“I believe so,” Fire attacker Patrick Nyarko said Tuesday when asked if the team lacked spirit prior to Sunday’s win. “It seemed like when we took the lead, we weren’t confident, we couldn’t hold onto the lead or go on and try to kill off the game.
“We have two perfect examples with [Thursday’s 1-1 draw against DC] and the [2-2 draw at New York on Aug. 13]. Those games, we really put them on the back foot, but after we took leads we sat back and let them come at us. That can only take you so far and we’d just lose the lead at the end and it was just frustrating.”
That wasn’t the case on Sunday, when former Toronto defender Dan Gargan added to his new team’s 1-0 halftime advantage with a 69th-minute goal to seal the game. The goal gave the Fire their first two-goal lead in MLS play since their March 26 victory over Sporting Kansas City.
“Last game we were able to do it,” Nyarko said. “Certain parts of the game, we were on the back foot, but we concentrated even more then — and that’s the point where you need to concentrate more. We did that and got the second goal and got the win.”
That victory has given the Fire a sense of belief — something that was lacking for far too long during this trying season.
“I think everyone has a feeling that we can do it now, that we can win games” Nyarko said. “It just takes that little bit of concentration and belief. I think that’s what’s been missing.”
The win also gives Chicago a better chance at the playoffs. They know that their postseason hopes are still slim — the Fire trail 10th-seeded New York by eight points with just nine games remaining — but they’ll keep fighting for as long as they’re mathematically alive.
“It’s not lost,” Nyarko said. “And as long as it’s not lost, we’re sticking in and we believe we can still make it. … We just need to go on a run here starting on Saturday at home against Colorado and then we’ll take it from there.”
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.