BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – While interim head coach Brian Bliss acknowledged that his Chicago Fire side “battled and fought” throughout, he insisted the Men in Red had little to be ashamed of after pushing Eastern Conference and Supporters’ Shield winners the New York Red Bulls all the way.
Jesse Marsch’s high-flying Red Bulls left Toyota Park with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over MLS’s bottom side to confirm their place atop the Supporters’ Shield standings thanks to a dominant first half performance that reaped goals from Bradley Wright-Phillips and Sacha Kljestan.
However, the Fire were much improved after the break, and only for some vital interventions from goalkeeper Luis Robles, and the goal post, the outcome may have been different.
“Off the run of play I don’t think we had too much to be ashamed of,” Bliss said in his postgame press conference. “We battled and we fought, got back in the game in the second half and just couldn’t turn the tide. Their ’keeper made a couple of good saves down the stretch, but they’re a good team. Don’t make any mistake about it, Red Bulls are a good team. That’s why they’re Supporters’ Shield winners, they can weather a storm.
"They played some good soccer to keep us off the board, were able to keep possession and ride the clock with a 2-0 lead. It’s a good team we faced, but my guys fought and battled and it just wasn’t enough at the end of the day.”
The Fire had not lost to the Red Bulls in 14 games at Toyota Park before tonight, with nine wins and five draws since moving to Bridgeview in 2006. Chicago beat them, 3-2, on Aug. 26 with a performance full of promise and purpose. A continuation of that form would have seen FC Dallas take the Supporters’ Shield following their 2-1 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes, but despite their greater possession (54 percent to New York’s 46 percent) and greater shots total, 15-8, the hosts fell short once again and the Red Bulls held on for the win.
The Fire’s franchise-record 20th defeat of the season sees them finish seven points behind both the Philadelphia Union and the Colorado Rapids in the league-wide standings, and it is clear a rebuilding job is in order once recently appointed General Manager Nelson Rodriguez selects his new head coach.
“Of course we wanted to give the fans something to cheer about in our last game, but today it didn’t happen, we didn’t play as well as usual,” top scorer David Accam, who struck the post in the 73rd minute, admitted. “We were terrible in the first 30 minutes or 40 minutes and we conceded, but the team is starting to take shape. I know there will be a lot of changes coming to the team so hopefully next season will be much better.”
Veteran winger Patrick Nyarko echoed the his compatriot's optimism for 2016 despite the disappointment of this season, and said players will have some soul searching to do if their fortunes are to improve next year.
“We have to go back to the drawing board,” he said. “It’s tough but that’s the only thing we can do, just go back, look at ourselves and ask ourselves, ‘Did we give everything to this club to make it successful?’ Then we come back next year and try to make it better.”
Shane Murray covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com.