Chicago Fire fall just short of embarking on first winning streak of 2016

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Despite the failure to build on the Chicago Fire’s big road win in Montreal with another victory, head coach Veljko Paunovic saw enough from the 2-2 tie with the LA Galaxy on Wednesday at Toyota Park to confirm that his side is headed in the right direction.

The Fire (5-11-8, 23 points) leapfrogged Columbus Crew SC at the bottom of the Eastern Conference on goal difference following the hard-fought draw against an LA side that rested much of their star-studded roster.

However, the home side, buoyed by that 3-0 win in Canada, sprung to life after falling behind to Gyasi Zardes’ 31st-minute opener, with goals from Alvaro Alvarez and David Accam giving them a 2-1 halftime lead. 

However, the introduction of Giovani dos Santos and Alan Gordon saw the two combine for LA’s 69th-minute leveler, and despite some late chances at both ends, the game ended all square.

“For sure, I think we did a fantastic game,” Paunovic said when asked if it was disappointing not to get the win. “I’m feeling very sorry for our guys, very disappointed that we couldn’t get more from this game. I think the performance was fantastic, I think we finally feel we are there where we wanted to be all year. We finally feel like a team who can beat anyone in this league. I’m feeling proud of our guys, proud of pushing hard until the end.”

Push hard they did as they repeatedly took the game to a Galaxy side who moved to fourth in the Western Conference. The turning point of an enthralling, action-packed game came in the 53rd minute, when Accam’s speed took him past the advanced Clement Diop, but with the LA ’keeper’s goal temporarily vacated, the Ghanaian delayed his shot before squaring for recent signing Luis Solignac, who was still superbly placed to score.

However, his first touch drew him slightly wide, allowing the Galaxy defense to scramble back and he pulled his shot high and wide under pressure. That Accam also saw a wonderful shot clip a post in the first half only added salt to the Fire’s wounds when dos Santos tied the game with 21 minutes remaining.

Throughout the game, and deep into the five minutes of injury time, there seemed to be a belief amongst the Fire players that the game was still there to be won. They outshot the visitors 17 to 10 on the night, eight to three for shots on target, and for a change this season shaded possession with 51 percent of the ball.  

“I think that in every attack, every counterattack, every situation in front of goal we were actually very, very close,” Paunovic added. “We feel a little bit disappointed but I think we have to look very positive to the performance we had today. It’s what we’ve been looking for all season.”

Partly energized by the win over Montreal and certainly feeding off the action on the field, a strong crowd played its part in the evening’s entertainment.

“It’s huge, it’s everything,” first-year rookie Brandon Vincent said of the energized crowd’s positive influence on the team’s performance. “Our confidence on the field comes from the fans, comes from the group, comes from everybody, it’s a team effort, the fans included. They’re a part of this club, they’re a part of this team’s success when we have it and we do everything we can to make them proud. Their support is everything for us.”