CHESTER, Pa. — Every team is going to show signs of inconsistency at one point or another during a season, that is just the way soccer goes. However the goal is how to bounce back and rise to success after hitting those inconsistent patches.
The Chicago Fire have not found their answer to that question yet in 2018, as they suffered a 3-1 road loss to the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday night. It was the seventh defeat of the season for Veljko Paunovic’s side, who lost 11 matches in all of last season. After a hard-fought win in Orlando the week prior, the Fire fell in the dying moments as the Union iced the win with a late penalty kick goal by Borek Dockal.
“I think the team did well in the first-half, and overall we had a good shape defensively. We just got beat by the quality of one player,” Paunovic said. “We started well in the second-half, one small lack of concentration allowed them to score again. A good finish by Alan Gordon pulled us close, but an unfortunate ending ended it for us tonight.”
“I thought if we didn’t concede that third goal, we would’ve had more options to score a tying goal. There were things we did good and things we did not do well with, but ultimately we will have to live with the result and that’s football.”
Despite going down, 2-0, after 51 minutes, the Fire fought their way back through their veteran striker Gordon. The forward finished Brandt Bronico’s cross past Andre Blake to make things interesting at Talen Energy Stadium, but it was the closest the Fire would get to a comeback.
Defensively, the Fire looked out of sync in the backline being caught out on several occasions. Playing a 5-3-2 from the start is something that the Fire have done before, but at moments they looked lost and not sure how to cope with the Union’s pace. Defender Brandon Vincent was beaten on the opening goal by Ilsinho, and felt that some mistakes cost them a chance at a draw away from home.
“With a pair of home matches approaching we just have to learn from the mistakes tonight,” Vincent said. “After we analyze what we did wrong, we will be better for it. We had chances on goal and they (Philly) made saves, so those are the fine lines that made the difference in the end.”
Leading-scorer Nemanja Nikolic did not make the 18-man squad, leaving Gordon and Aleksandar Katai as the main forwards. Gordon netted his third of the season, but Katai was fairly quiet playing on the left wing mostly.
33-year-old Bastian Schweinsteiger started the match very deep for the Fire, but eventually advanced up the field as they went down. The former Bayern Munich and Manchester United man put in a strong shift for Paunovic’s side, but understands that the effort went to waste with another loss being etched into their record.
“It’s very frustrating to know we fought back and didn’t get a result we wanted,” Schweinsteiger said. “Other times this season we’ve been able to fight back for a draw like against Toronto, but tonight just wasn’t our night. We know we have to recover fast because we have another match on Saturday.”
One number that will have to change for the Fire to have any chance of making 2018 a success is the amount they concede. Their 24 goals conceded through 13 matches is the second-most in the Eastern Conference so far this season. As Paunovic tries to find the best lineup available for his team, defensively as a whole the Fire need to tighten up.
“We know we concede too much,” Schweinsteiger said. “One thing we need to do is try to steer clear of giving away easy goals. As a group we’ve been working towards improving defensively and I see the effort is there, but as a team we know it needs to change.”
The Fire (4-7-2) return home for a June 2nd date with the San Jose Earthquakes, before beginning U.S. Open Cup play in Columbus a week from Wednesday.