Of the six losses the Chicago Fire have encountered at Toyota Park this season, arguably none were met with more frustration and disappointment than Saturday night's defeat to the Colorado Rapids.
Pablo Mastroeni's side had brought up the rear of the Western Conference for much of the season, as had Frank Yallop's group in the Eastern Conference. Though both remained glued to last place in their respective regions by night's end, Colorado's sucker-punch, counter-attack goal - the lone tally on the night - breathed life into the visitors, who had only registered seven goals in 11 games on the road heading into Saturday's cross-conference clash.
For the Fire, the thorough and consummate 2-0 toppling of FC Dallas at the beginning of August has become a distant memory. Since then, elimination from the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup - sandwiched between a 1-0 loss to the Portland Timbers and last weekend's 3-3 draw at the Philadelphia Union - has seen lingering discontentment among fans boil over.
"We had an idea going into the game," Homegrown midfielder Harry Shipp said. "You can't blame them. They want to support a team that's doing well on the field, and the last couple years, we haven't been able to get it done. For us, we hope they keep supporting us and recognizing that we're doing everything possible.
"We're not sleeping well at night. We're coming in, it's miserable for us to be here not doing well, because it is our livelihood. Hopefully they'll recognize that and know we want to do well just as much as they want us to do well."
Inevitable factors have painted the Fire (6-13-5, 23 points) in a harsher light than perhaps they deserve throughout 2015. In terms of team selection, losing players to injuries and international duty - a commonplace and harsh reality all MLS clubs can attest to - has become a talking point through the greater portion of 24 games. But defensive errors and lapses in concentration in key moments - amid the undoubted effort on display - leave the Men in Red searching for clues as to how to right the ship with just 10 fixtures remaining.
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Attaining some semblance of stability and consistency heading into the final stretch will prove vital. With wins coming at a premium, costly mistakes, much like the ones that multiplied in the build-up to Dillon Serna's tap-in at the back post 54 seconds in, won't suffice if the Fire are to pluck anything positive from an otherwise disheartening campaign.
“We can’t give up the goal, they got the one chance early, and it’s unacceptable from our part,” Shipp added. “We wanted to come out fast and press them, and we got caught high up the field, and that’s not acceptable. ... “The way we’ve played this year, we don’t necessarily deserve to have any luck, but tonight, there were some times where I thought we were a little bit unlucky.”