Chicago Fire learn as they go with big win over Seattle Sounders

BRIDGEVIEW --  When Dax McCarty arrived in Chicago prior to the season, he talked about changing what seemed like a “culture of losing” that had grown within the once-successful club. 

On Saturday night, McCarty and the Fire handed the defending MLS Cup champion Seattle Sounders a 4-1 loss in front of a crowd of 20,153, the club’s first sellout at Toyota Park since Sept. 19, 2015. 

“These are big games for the club,” McCarty said. “National television, sellout crowd, bright lights, night game, these are games that players should dream of and these are games that you should thrive in. You should really want to play in these big games."

After a topsy-turvy first half that ended with the teams even at 1-1, the Fire showed renewed intensity and fully outplayed their opponent after the break as they scored three unanswered goals. 

“Like I said, after the first half I thought we were pretty dangerous, we created some good chances on the break but we didn’t play that well," McCarty continued. "We came in the locker room, we regrouped, we changed a couple things and we came out and showed character, we showed a little bit of attitude. That was something that I think this team needs to get better at."

With the win, Chicago (4-3-3) are sitting in the sixth place in the East and don’t look like a team “indifferent about winning” as McCarty had put it before the year.

“After we got the second goal I think you saw our confidence just grow,” McCarty said. “I think once we realized that hey, we deserve to be here, we deserve to be out on the field with the champions, we started to take it to them and that was a good feeling.”

As Fire head coach Veljko Paunovic put it, “The team is growing. The smiles are back in Bridgeview finally.

“It’s not only one game, this is the general feeling that our team has in the locker room, outside of the locker room when we are downtown in the city, wherever we are we can feel that there is a passion about the team, a positive expectation. The people can see good results, can see great games like today, can see the overall improvement in our team depth and the mentality now where the team now feels confident and is capable of managing difficult games against difficult opponents, champions like Seattle.”

Have the Fire arrived as a team to be feared by the rest of MLS? McCarty notes the learning curve continues, although the progress is promising.

"We still have a long way to go, no question about it. We’re still learning, we’re learning on the fly how to win and that’s something that only comes with going through tough games like tonight.”