BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Sherjill MacDonald didn’t sleep well Wednesday night after the Chicago Fire’s 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Union, and the forward was sure that most of his teammates also had restless nights.
Veteran players stepped up and spoke to the team after the game, but not much was said on Thursday morning aside from Arne Friedrich’s words to the team about playing better defense. They all knew that their shape was poor, their discipline was bad and they lost an opportunity to rack up three points in a tight Eastern Conference playoff race.
“Sometimes it’s better not to talk too much, and just get back to the basics,” MacDonald told MLSsoccer.com. “Have a good shape, and from there, hopefully we’ll be successful.”
The Fire were burned early by their strategy of pressing high, and Philadelphia found their opening in the seventh minute, when Danny Cruz slipped a through-pass to Jack McInerney to put the Fire in yet another hole.
The loss was Chicago’s second in a row after Friday’s loss to first-place Sporting Kansas City. Just a week ago, the Fire were playing for first place after winning seven of eight, but now they’re five points behind Sporting, tied for second place with New York with a massive trip to Red Bull Arena looming on Saturday (3:30 pm ET, NBC, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
“After the game [last] Friday, I think a lot of us tried to take the burden onto ourselves and do a little bit more than what we’re used to,” forward Chris Rolfe said. “When you do that, you have no rhythm, you get stretched out, you actually make it easier on the team to play. I think that kind of got us into trouble [on Wednesday].”
Without head coach Frank Klopas, who was suspended after being ejected in Friday’s loss, and veteran leader Pável Pardo, who missed his third straight game with a calf injury, the Fire never recovered from that early deficit.
“It was difficult not being there with the team,” Klopas said. “I was disappointed, I felt like I let the team down not being there. … We never had a rhythm. We turned the ball over very easy. I don’t know why that was.”
The Fire won’t have Pardo back on Saturday, but there’s a belief among the team that they’ll make things right.
Playing a simple, disciplined brand of soccer had them inching toward the top of the standings. If they get back to that style of play on Saturday, they think second place is theirs to take.
“I think we put a little too much stress on the Kansas City loss,” said Rolfe. “Now, it’s time to regroup and say, ‘We’re a good team, we believe in ourselves. We have been on a great run, so why freak out now? Why be afraid?’”