It was surprising to hear the way the Fire talked about Saturday’s 1-1 draw against the New York Red Bulls.
Coach Veljko Paunovic praised his team’s performance and said it was “a great point.” Michael de Leeuw echoed the sentiments, saying the team was “happy” with the draw.
So why would the Fire be happy with a draw at home against a team below them in the standings? Allow midfielder Dax McCarty, a former Red Bulls player, to give an explanation.
“Look, we’re not happy with the result that we got against the Red Bulls,” McCarty said. “We expected three points, but the performance was something to be proud of. You can’t sit there and say you want to play pretty soccer and play 500, 600 passes against a team like Red Bull. It’s not going to happen. They’ll eat you alive. The game was ugly. The game was about second balls and I thought our mentality of winning second balls and trying to be physical and trying to run with them was really good and so that’s why the performance was a positive one.”
McCarty has consistently been a voice of reason within the group as well as someone who has always pushed for more out of the team. Early in the season he had said the team “had a long way to go,” and that was after a win. This was another example of him doing a better job of explaining something that raised some eyebrows after Saturday’s game.
After the Fire’s winning run through May and June, followed by an extended negative run in July and August, the team is in third place in the Eastern Conference. The remaining jockeying for playoff positions will be a tight race, but goalkeeper Matt Lampson said the most important thing is peaking in the playoffs.
“Pauno talked about it this morning and I think he nailed it,” Lampson said. “It doesn’t matter what we did in May or what we even did two weeks ago. We need to start peaking now and we need to start peaking in the playoffs, just like Seattle did (last year). They were not good until the playoffs. I think that’s what we need to focus on, is just continue to progress and upward trajectory throughout the end of the year and then into the playoffs hopefully. If you play your best soccer there, you’re going to do well and that’s what we’re going to focus on doing. I think we’re starting to do that. We’ve changed tactics, we’ve got guys coming back from injury and we’re getting results against good teams and in hostile environments so it’s good.”