October 27, 2012
Kathryn L. Knapp
ROOM TO IMPROVE
Fire enters post-season looking forward
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – With playoffs on the horizon, all records are thrown out and the teams start from scratch. For the Fire, that’s a positive. While the team earned a respectable 17-11-6 record during the regular season campaign, it was not a perfect season. There is still room to improve.
|Lionard Pajoy scored in the 50th minute to lift DC United into a 1-1 tie and drop the Fire to fourth place in the MLS East.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Saturday afternoon the Fire scored first. They scored 16 minutes into the match. They held on to that lead for the remainder of the first half. Second half, they had the 1-0 advantage, but slowly it started slipping away. D.C. United and Lionard Pajoy kept pressing until Pajoy found the net in the 50th minute. The Fire threw everything they had at United, including three second-half substitutions.
“We started off well with a nice goal,” Fire head coach Frank Klopas said. “The second half we started off flat. We picked it up. In games like this when you create chances, you have to put them away.”
The Fire tallied 16 shots on goal. But so did D.C. United. Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson made four saves, while D.C.’s Bill Hamid was forced to make eight.
“We had enough chances tonight,” Chicago’s Sherjill MacDonald said. “We didn’t put it away. Sometimes it falls into the net and sometimes it doesn’t.”
Consistency was missing from the Fire’s last month of play. In October the team earned a 1-2-1 record. They tallied four goals, while allowing five. In that span, Chicago forced one shutout. With a fourth-place finish in the East, the Fire doesn’t have a chance to make too many mistakes. They’ll host a knockout game this week vs. Houston. If they win, they’ll advance. If they lose, the 2012 campaign is over.
“Our goal all season was to make the playoffs,” Klopas said. “We did it. Towards the end of the season, it comes down to small details. A clean sheet tonight, and we win the game.”
While the feeling among the players after the match was somewhat somber, the players all know what needs to be done now – focus on Houston.
“We can beat them,” Patrick Nyarko said. “They’re a very good team. They can beat us also. It’s a level playing field now. It helps to host the game. We are comfortable at home.”
Fire defender Arne Friedrich said the team will begin to regroup, effective immediately. “Everybody is a professional. We know these games will be very tough. But it’s not over yet. We have to stay positive.”
In the regular season, the Fire earned a 1-0-2 record against the Dynamo, outscoring the team 4-2, while posting 1-1 and 0-0 draws and a 3-1 win. But again, in the post-season, all teams start with a clean slate. Chicago will host Houston midweek, time and date to be announced.