The first half of the season of the 2019 MLS season is in the books. After a 1-1 draw with Real Salt Lake at home, the Chicago Fire’s record stands at 4 wins, 7 draws, 6 losses which puts them outside the final playoff spot.
The draw against Real Salt Lake encompasses what has been the Fire’s season so far. In far too many games, especially at home, the team got off to an early lead. They try to increase that lead and create a couple of opportunities, but fail to convert. Then the opponent gets one chance or break and in the blink of an eye, tie the game.
If the Fire’s season could be summed up in one word, that word would be frustrating.
Dax McCarty said as much in his post game comments.
“I think we’re all a little bit disappointed, a little bit frustrated with the first half of the season. We expect more. Let me put it as simple as I possibly can. We expect more out of ourselves in this locker room and I know that there’s more out there for us,” McCarty said.
“Not the result we wanted tonight. Definitely a frustrated locker room, again, which has kind of been a little bit of the theme of the season. Got a little bit of momentum there a couple weeks back and it’s kind of dissipated a little bit and now that big break and losing in the Open Cup and now drawing it feels like we got to get going again.”
The latest draw at home did extend the Fire’s unbeaten run at home to seven games (4W, 3D) but it also extended their winless streak six games, including the Open Cup loss.
There is no doubt that the players in that locker room are frustrated and there comes a time where that frustration will manifest itself in some way on the pitch. Head coach Veljko Paunovic was asked about the morale of the locker in his press conference.
“Well it has been the whole season. After the huge effort and after creating a lot of opportunities, missing those, the team suffers because we believe we do a lot of things well. We believe that we improved also today in defense. We had a pretty good showing defensively. I think we kept our goal safe. Unfortunate play on a penalty kick and that happens in the game,” Paunovic responded.
“But, definitely, the team does much more than we get back. We will continue. There is no other recipe but stay focused, work together, and focus on the next game, next opponent, and, most importantly, focus on ourselves and not lose the faith.”
Keeping the faith is one of the few things this team has control over at the moment. They are going to need to work hard to keep that faith and try to turn things around in the second half of the season.
Finding bright spots for the Fire these last couple of weeks has been difficult. Fortunately, they got a semblance of that thanks to Brandt Bronico. Bronico started the game at right back because of the injury to Johan Kappelhof. All things considered, he played well. Paunovic certainly took notice.
At this point, to keep the faith and believe that things are going to get better, it is those small victories that the Fire are going to have to lean on if they want to believe that things will get better.
As it stands, the first half of the season has been a complete disappointment considering the investment made prior to the start of the season. Sans fullbacks, the pieces are there for this team to be much higher on the table than they currently are.
We can talk about winning a game here or there and how the environment surrounding the team would be different, but it does no one any good. The Fire are where they are because of their deficiencies and depend only on themselves to dig their way out of it.
McCarty sums it up best: “Look, I know that there’s frustration in the locker room, outside the locker room. We expect more of ourselves and we have 17 games to make it better.”
The Fire get a chance to make it better on the road when they face off against the New York Red Bulls. There’s no better time like the present to get things back on track.