BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — There isn’t a player on the Chicago Fire roster who was around the last time the club made the playoffs in 2012. For that matter, no one currently with the club was in Chicago the last time the Fire finished outside of last place in the league.
The way midfeidler Dax McCarty sees it, that’s a good thing.
As the 2017 Fire have heated up, they’re no longer thinking about just getting a road win, getting out of last place, or even ending the club’s four-season playoff drought.
They’re thinking about winning a trophy for the first time since 2006.
“I think goals can always change,” McCarty said. “This team in the past hasn’t been good, hasn’t made the playoffs, but the best part about this year is that we have a lot of guys that weren’t here and just really don’t care about last year or five years ago. It’s totally out of our minds. We have a lot of winners here and we have a lot of guys who are hungry for more wins and more success. This club has a proud history, it has a rich history of winning championships and that’s something that the Fire need to gain back.”
The Fire are now unbeaten in their last nine matches with seven wins and two draws. They are undefeated at Toyota Park, including seven straight home wins, and haven’t lost since April 29 at Red Bull Arena. The club’s 10 wins in 17 games is already its best tally since 2013.
“I mean there was only one way to go and that was up, in terms of how bad they were last year,” McCarty said. “But the mentality is certainly now, ‘OK let’s not just make the playoffs because that’s not good enough.’ Sure we want to make the playoffs but we want to win the Open Cup and we want to win MLS Cup and we want to compete for the Supporters’ Shield. Now, is that realistic to compete for all three? Why not? Why not us? I think that’s our motto and our attitude right now in the locker room, ‘Why can’t we win every game?’”
McCarty, who was traded to Chicago in the offseason, added that he isn’t surprised that the team has gelled so quickly despite so many new pieces.
“I’m really not,” McCarty said. “You might be surprised that I say that, but when you bring together players that are hungry – good players from last year’s team that are not satisfied with how the last couple years went here and then you bring in good players who are winners and guys that are used to winning and guys that are used to being successful – I think that mentality rubs off on the whole group.
“I’m not surprised that we’re gelling because I’ve said this before, but it’s easy to play good soccer when you play with good players. Good players make the game easier for everyone around them. And then you add on the fact that guys have the right mentality when they step onto the pitch of wanting to run and wanting to fight and not wanting to lose individual battles and that’s a recipe for success. So I’m not surprised.”
The Fire’s run of form will be put to the test as they face a busy schedule over the next week-and-a-half, with a U.S. Open Cup trip to USL upstart FC Cincinnati on Wednesday (8 pm ET; ESPN2), followed by a home tilt vs. Vancouver on Saturday (7 pm ET, MLS LIVE) and a trip to Portland the following Wednesday.
And even though the team’s ambitions keep growing, McCarty said that they’re no doubt enjoying the victories while also keeping perspective on where they are in the season.
“If you don’t enjoy winning games then you’re in the wrong profession,” McCarty said. “That’s why we get up every day, that’s why we step on the practice field, that’s why we do what we do. You want to win.
“To answer your question, yes, we’re enjoying it. But we’re halfway through the season. We haven’t lifted any trophies, you don’t get any trophies for being great 17 games. So we’re going to keep going, it’s not going to be easy, we’re not going to have this amazing run last forever, I mean it’s bound to come to an end eventually. But right now, we step on the field with the mentality that we’re going to win every game.”