The Chicago Fire’s 2-1 U.S. Open Cup loss to USL Championship side Saint Louis FC on Tuesday wasn’t just one of the biggest “Cupsets” of the tournament so far – it might prove to be a watershed moment in the Fire’s 2019 season.
That was the clear message from head coach Veljko Paunovic as he tore into his squad following their humbling setback at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri.
“We are very disappointed. We let ourselves down today,” said Paunovic. “We said that it wasn’t going to be easy. There are no excuses for this performance even though that we wanted it and we created a lot of opportunities. But at the end of the day, so far this year has been pretty much the same.
“We create a lot of opportunities, we dominate, we don’t convert, and then on the first counter or first opportunity that our opponent has, we concede a goal.”
Currently sitting in ninth place in the MLS Eastern Conference standings with a 4-6-6 record, the Men in Red have been maddeningly inconsistent in league play, showing flashes of great quality interspersed with galling breakdowns and ugly results. On Tuesday they dominated the opening stages and forced SLFC goalkeeper Tomas Gomez to make some stunning saves, then conceded two goals in five minutes, both on free headers from close range.
With the summer transfer window approaching, it sounds like the Fire may ring in some changes.
“It’s a mix of sometimes a casual approach and an immaturity that we have in some moments of the game, some lapses that are unacceptable at this level of competition and any other level that we are performing in,” said Paunovic.
“So, we have to fix things. We have some time but it’s definitely not what we want and it’s time for us to also make decisions and move forward.”