Fight all game, look like you’re going to earn a result, then concede a late goal to drop points.
It’s an all-too-familiar story for the Chicago Fire, who added a new chapter to their season-long tale of late game misery Saturday night, when they gave up a 92nd-minute goal to fall painfully to the Seattle Sounders 2-1 at Qwest Field.
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“To fight and claw for points on the road,” Fire midfielder John Thorrington told MLSsoccer.com after the match, "especially in a place that’s hard to play in – and then give it up in the last couple minutes on a mental lapse, certainly hurts."
The loss was made all the more painful by the fact that Chicago played pretty well. The Fire defended bravely, kept possession decently and fought incredibly hard. Unfortunately, their solid performance was nullified by two huge mistakes in the back, both of which led to Fredy Montero goals.
“It’s so disappointing,” Thorrington said. “I think the guys played their hearts out, left everything out there and, at the end of the day, we were sloppy on a couple plays and got punished for it.”
The Fire’s first mistake came in the 36th minute. The Chicago back four was slow to react to an early cross by Seattle left back Tyson Wahl. The Fire’s momentary mental lapse cost them, as it allowed Montero to sneak behind the back line, collect the cross near the top of the 18-yard-box and bury an open shot from 10 yards out.
Chicago's second – and more glaring – error came two minutes into second-half injury time. Seattle midfielder Nathan Sturgis hit an early cross in from the right wing and the ball fell to a shockingly wide-open Montero at the back post, who nodded his 6-yard header past Fire 'keeper Sean Johnson for the game winner.
Thorrington chalked up the late mistake to a lack of focus.
“I think everybody would say it’s just a matter of focus and concentration,” he said. “It’s a team issue. It’s not the back line, it’s not one guy, it’s not two guys, but it’s everybody. We all need to band together and minimize that otherwise were just going to end up shooting ourselves in the foot and continue putting in wasted efforts.”
Thorrington would never say as much, but the late mistake might have been a product of fatigue. Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos made only one substitution in the up-and-down match, waiting until the 86th minute to bring on Calen Carr for Patrick Nyarko. The lack of changes visibly hurt the Fire, who spent most of the game’s final minutes on the defensive and unable to keep possession.
Regardless of any potential reasons for the loss, Chicago understand they have to move on. The Galaxy come to Toyota Park next Saturday, and the Fire – who sit five points behind San Jose for the eighth and final playoff spot – need a win against LA to keep their playoff hopes alive.
“We’re at a stage in the season where all points [are big],” Thorrington said. “We just have to make sure we get out on the training ground, work hard, stick together, and start maximizing our points because we all know we have a bit of work to do.”