BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Chicago Fire defender Arne Friedrich knew his team had to refocus after their 3-1 loss to Philadelphia last Wednesday, one of their worst defensive performances of the season.
Eighty-four days after their last shutout, the Fire did just that, blanking the highest-scoring offense in the Eastern Conference in a 2-0 win in New York on Saturday.
“The difference was that everyone on the team started to take care of defending the game, and this is what we didn’t do for awhile,” Friedrich told MLSsoccer.com.
Chicago had been able to get away with mistakes throughout the season, winning nine games in come-from-behind fashion. But that changed in consecutive losses to Sporting KC and Philadelphia over a five-day span in which they gave up five goals.
Losing to the Union, the lowest-scoring team in the conference, served as a a wake-up call.
“Everyone was a little too certain that we were going to win the game, and that we have to score many goals,” Friedrich said. “[Saturday’s] game was a little bit different. We spoke about that before the game started, and in my eyes, we did really good.”
On Saturday, it appeared that the Fire put those mental lapses and mistakes in the past. With just two games left before the playoffs, that was crucial.
“[The Philadelphia loss] was just another learning experience,” center back Austin Berry told MLSsoccer.com. “We’ve got to come out with the right mindset for every game, and this just give us a little kickstart for the end of the season. It was a good time for us to have a game like that. We’re focused and playing well.”
The Fire clinched a playoff berth on Sunday after Columbus’ draw with SKC. With two games left, Chicago finally have reasons to be confident that they can shut down an opposing attack for 90 minutes.
“We are always able to score,” Friedrich said. “Everybody knew that we had to change our mentality, our attitude, how we go in the game.”