BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – The Chicago Fire claimed they didn’t care about New York’s result before their final game of the season against D.C. United on Saturday, but televisions in the home locker room were all tuned the Red Bulls’ 3-0 win over Philadelphia.
That win meant the Fire had to earn three points in order to avoid the Knockout Round, knowledge that clearly drove their play in a 1-1 draw as they scrambled to try to pick up a last-minute goal, even though a loss would have had negative implications.
“It is disappointing. It stinks, especially because we had an opportunity to win this game and we’ve had opportunities to clinch it,” midfielder Patrick Nyarko said. “But I always have that belief that, no matter where you start from, if you play well, you can win an MLS championship. It’s just one extra game.”
The Fire missed several point-blank chances, and the somber mood in the locker room made it seem more like a loss.
“We had more chances than you’re lucky to get in a month in this game,” Chris Rolfe said. “We’ll just look at the tape and regroup.”
One month ago, the Fire were fighting for the top spot in the Eastern Conference after winning seven of eight games. But those hopes went by the wayside with three losses over four games, making Saturday’s game all-important.
They’ll host Houston on either Wednesday or Thursday in a one-game playoff with Sporting KC waiting for the victor.
“I’m still positive,” said Sherjill MacDonald, who had two one-on-one shots saved by D.C. goalkeeper Bill Hamid. “There’s no point in being negative … Next game is another day and another chance to score.”
Instead of taking their normal two-day break after a game, the Fire will get back to work with training on Sunday.
Chicago guarded against pressure this week by saying Saturday’s game wasn’t all-important, even though three late-game offensive substitutions and frantic play as time ran out suggested otherwise.
Despite the fact that they pushed for a late goal, the Fire did secure home-field advantage in the Knockout Round by preserving the tie.
“Bottom line is we’re in fourth position. It’s not what we expected before the game, but we are still in the competition,” Friedrich said. “We have to push now. It’s not over, but we have to kick our ass and we have to stay positive.”