This time, the Chicago Fire couldn’t muster a comeback.
After coming from behind four times in their previous eight games, the Fire lost 2-0 to Kansas City on Friday after Graham Zusi gave Kansas City the lead in the 11th minute.
“We were losing the ball too easily and we weren’t getting after it like we should have been,” defender Austin Berry told MLSsoccer.com. “We came out a little too soft and gave them too much respect. We stepped up more in the second half, and it wasn’t like we changed formations or we changed personnel, we just stepped up and played more.”
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Falling behind early was a problem the Fire early in the season, though it seemed like they had bucked that trend midway through the year.
But six times in the last nine games, they’ve given up the first goal. In four games against teams outside the playoff picture, the Fire came back to win. Against D.C. United and Kansas City, teams lined up to make the playoffs, the Fire lost by multiple goals.
On Friday, the Fire struggled early with Kansas City’s high pressure.
“We sat back a little bit, we tried to force balls long and we didn’t do a good job of winning the second balls and we were kind of poor on the ball,” Berry said.
Berry did find one positive to take out of Friday’s contest.
It’s been three years since the Fire qualified for the playoffs, so a quick primer in what it’s like to play in an intense, late-season atmosphere in MLS may do them some good down the stretch.
The team sits at second place in the Eastern Conference, and eight points ahead of sixth-place Columbus, so it’s likely they’ll face similar atmospheres soon.
“We didn’t want to put too much focus or too much pressure on ourselves, but it was a playoff atmosphere against a playoff team,” Berry said. “It was a good experience for the younger players like myself to see what it’s like for the first time this season.”