The Chicago Fire understood the importance of Saturday night’s home opener against the San Jose Earthquakes. The club knew the match represented a great opportunity to pick up its first win of 2010 and—in the process—improve on its dismal home record of 2009.
So, when the Fire fell victim to a late goal—as they so often did last season—in their 2-1 loss Saturday night, it was understandable that some players were having unhappy flashbacks to last year.
Watch: Full match highlights
“This was one of our issues last year,” Fire defender C.J. Brown said. “Concentration for the full 90; and it’s biting us in the [rear] again. It’s just going back to doing what we did [last year]. You can’t teach focus, you got to get that yourself. You’ve got to stay tuned in. Everybody does it. It’s not just one person, it’s all of us. We just got to really concentrate for the full 90 and we’ll be in games.”
Brown was upset that both of San Jose’s goals came after lapses in concentration by the Fire defense. In particular, the veteran defender was disappointed with the communication error between him and goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra that led to San Jose’s first goal.
“The pass back [to Dykstra] wasn’t as strong as it probably could have been,” Brown said. “Initially, it looked like Andrew was going for it, so then I slowed down. When I saw him back up I stepped into it. Then both of us were in all or nothing because we didn’t know who was going to do what and both of us lost on that one.”
Adding to the Fire’s disappointment was that they felt they had the best of the run of play. But to the dismay of the 20,276 in attendance at Toyota Park, Chicago wasn’t able to capitalize on its opportunities as well as San Jose did.
“It’s just a real disappointment,” Fire midfielder Patrick Nyarko said. “I was telling the other players ever since last year that we played the best soccer at home, we dominated the game and eventually we end up losing. It just sucks, and it’s very strange because we get punished by any mistake we make.”
Nyarko, who endured several games like this in his time with the Fire in 2009, offered an explanation as to why he thought the Fire tend concede late goals at home.
“It’s kind of hard [to say],” Nyarko said. “If you have more of the ball sometimes you tend get a little bit lackadaisical. This year we’re going to try to pass the ball around we’re going to try to dominate the game possession-wise, so we just need to stay tuned in for however many minutes we’re playing. It’s just a matter of building it up in our heads and making sure that going forward we limit the mistakes we make.”
The Fire could have been signing a different tune after the match if forward Collins John had put away one of two fantastic opportunities. His first chance, which came in the 11th minute, saw a completely unmarked John fail to properly connect with a Patrick Nyarko cross, causing the Dutch striker to miss an empty net from just three yards out.
“I kind of misjudged the pass,” John said. “I should’ve just stayed in one place and let the ball come to me, but you know that’s part of the game. I was so confident we were going to win the game but it wasn’t meant to happen today. It’s disappointing.”
The loss moves the Fire to 0-2-1 on the year. The club, which went undefeated in the first 11 games of 2009, now drops to sixth place in the Eastern Conference, five points behind first place Kansas City. The Fire travel to the nation’s capital to take on last-place D.C. United next Saturday.
“It’s a disappointing night,” said John. “But we have to keep our heads up. Next week is a must-win.”