At some point this season, you may have been encouraged to come out to Soldier Field to support the Chicago Fire, who are undefeated and in second place in the Eastern Conference.
Fast forward 90 days and it will be a very different picture.
The Fire entered Saturday night’s home game against D.C. United last in Major League Soccer with just 11 points in 14 games and have not won since March 19. No team has scored fewer goals than Fire’s 13 at the start of the weekend.
And designated players Xherdan Shaqiri (hamstring), currently the highest paid player in the league, and Jairo Torres (thigh) missed the match with injuries, further adding to the strain on a team that has been rebuilt twice in the last three seasons under the director of sport. George. Heitz and CTO Sebastian Pelzer.
But the Fire could have eased some of that burden with a 1-0 win thanks to a header from Fabian Herbers in the 78th minute.
“Fortunately, I scored a goal at the end, so I’m happy to help the team,” said Herbers. “Hopefully this is a huge push for us in the right direction and we hope we can continue to develop it and move on.”
Herbers’ goal helped the Fire break a 10-match losing streak.
“Hopefully we can change the perception of this team that this is a team that can’t close games,” said coach Ezra Hendrickson. “Today we showed that we have everything we need.”
But even with a win, Math can still be up against Fire (3-7-5, 14 points) if they want to play post-season football.
With the exception of the pandemic-altered 2020 season, teams with 48 points (2021), 45 points (2019) and 50 points (2018 and 2017) have won the last playoff spot in the East over the past four seasons.
This means that the Fire, who finished third with 55 points in 2017, would have to be in form similar to the Fan Shield – usually around two points per game – in their last 19 games to even have a chance of qualifying for the playoffs. -off.
“I told (to the players) after the game, remember this feeling,” Hendrickson said. “Remember how nice it is to walk off the field when you played well, knowing that you didn’t give the game or lose the game. … Consistency is something we need to work on.”
The Fire approached the recent international hiatus as an opportunity to break out of their recent funk.
“We’ve had the opportunity to review what we’ve done up to this point,” defenseman Jonathan Bornstein said. “I have enough time to work and watch videos, just get ready for the next game. A lot of it was that we were talking about where we were this season, being realistic and re-evaluating everything before this game.”
Hendrickson warned that Fire would experience “growing pains” this season and touched on the need for patience at his weekly press conference on Wednesday.
“It’s not so much patience because the guys are young, but more patience because this is a relatively new team,” Hendrickson said on Wednesday. “It will take some time to get the guys to merge and merge with each other, and now you also have a new coach with a new philosophy that they also need to internalize.
“So… when I talk about patience, I don’t mean so much age or anything like that, but time to develop. And we see progress. We are definitely seeing progress. If we were to sit here and lose every game 3-0, 4-0, 5-0, we would be in trouble.”
According to Hendrickson, Fire is probably not as bad as their records.
But even after Saturday’s result, they are 0.93 points per game, which is no different from the 2015-16 season, when Fire finished last in MLS with 30 points (0.88 points per game) and 31 points (0.91 points per game) and 31 points (0.91 points per game). game).
That doesn’t mean the Fire will end this season with their third “Wooden Spoon,” a fan-made “honor” given to the last-placed team in MLS. But the difference is negligible, and Fire needs to build on Saturday’s win.
They may have to do without Shaqiri for a while, who leads Fire with six assists and was the team’s top scorer on Saturday with three goals. Torres has been recovering from injury on and off since he moved from Atlas in May.
The severity of Shaqiri’s injury has not been announced, but Hendrickson said Fire is hopeful the linebacker is ready for their next game against the Houston Dynamo on Saturday.
“The hamstrings are very complex, so you have to be careful with them,” Hendrickson said.
The Fire goalkeeper and Addison native has been the subject of several transfer requests, with 18-year-old Premier League club Chelsea and European and Spanish champions Real Madrid interested in the 18-year-old.
Any deal with Slonina would likely include a loan deal with Fire until at least the end of the season.
Hendrickson declined to comment on the rumors on Wednesday, but said he was not worried about Slonina losing focus in the meantime.
“It’s really good that he didn’t lose his head and stay focused, because it can be very distracting,” Hendrickson said. “That’s something we really can’t discuss and just let the guys negotiate… sort it out and we just want to focus, me and my staff, on the upcoming games.”