Sunday’s scoreless draw at Orlando left the Chicago Fire frustrated and searching for answers as to why the team was unable to break through against the shorthanded Lions.
Orlando suffered a first-half red card, one which the league has since rescinded, and another in the second half to go down to nine men. The Fire were unable to get a shot on target after Orlando went down to nine.
The missed opportunity of getting a win away from home against a playoff rival in the Eastern Conference could haunt the Fire later on. For now, coach Veljko Paunovic and co. are trying to figure out how to fix what went wrong.
“I think it was a very tricky game,” Paunovic said. “When I spoke with our general manager, Nelson Rodriguez, he said it right. Something that we are good in, which is now controlling the game and being consistent in, that worked against us.
“Now we were comfortable in controlling the game, the thing that we haven’t been in the past. Now we are like this is our style, we can do it, we can do it. We were maybe too confident because we thought it’s going to come, it’s going to come, it’s going to come. What we lacked of was the sense of urgency. We woke up in the last five minutes, but it was too late.”
Rodriguez said during training on Wednesday that he opted for the glass half-full view that Sunday’s game was the first time the Fire controlled a game for all 90 minutes. While a team playing up a man for over an hour is expected to control the game, the Fire did have a majority of the possession even before Rafael Ramos’ controversial red card.
Another factor is how unusual the circumstances were. It’s not often teams defend in the way Orlando did because it’s not often teams are down to nine players.
“You know when you play against a team which has only nine or 10 players on the field they defend only, let’s say 35 meters,” midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger said. “If you play against 11 sometimes it’s a little bit longer, the distance they have to defend.
“We were maybe not 100 percent sharp enough to win the game at the end of the day.”
Schweinsteiger, along with Dax McCarty, has been one of the most vocal players on the team in terms of saying there is room for improvement even after the results have improved.
“What I feel is like, especially after the Seattle victory at home, that we got more confidence,” Schweinsteiger said. “We believe. We play with a bigger chest. But still we are not on that level where I can say we are on a top level. We are on a good level, but we still have to improve.”
The broader view of the draw in Orlando is that, even if aided by the circumstances of the match and the two red cards, the Fire are looking back negatively at a draw on the road. Last year, the Fire had one win and two draws on the road out of 17 matches. This year’s team already has a win and three draws on the road.
Paunovic is looking at Sunday’s draw as a learning experience.
“This had to happen on the field so we can learn from that and I think we did,” Paunovic said. “We spoke about it, we had a long meeting for more than 30 minutes. Everyone gave his input and everyone was like, yes, we were all on the same page. We have to learn from this, we’ll learn.
“Now next time we have this situation I think we will be prepared.”