Matt Lampson

Dax McCarty: 'We expected three points, but the performance was something to be proud of'

dax-912.jpg
USA TODAY

Dax McCarty: 'We expected three points, but the performance was something to be proud of'

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.”

Return of the Fire? Fire hope for redemption on Star Wars Night

Return of the Fire? Fire hope for redemption on Star Wars Night

The Chicago Fire are currently licking their wounds like the rebels at the end of The Empire Strikes Back and are hoping Saturday’s game against Minnesota will be the Fire’s version of Return of the Jedi.

The Fire have lost three straight and five of six, but a look at the standings show that a home game against Minnesota may more closely resemble a bunch of hapless stormtroopers than a duel with Darth Vader. The Loons (6-14-4, 22 points) have the fewest points in the league, are winless on the road and have allowed the most goals in the league (51).

Despite facing a bottom-dwelling opponent, the Fire are going to trust their Jedi training and avoid overlooking Saturday’s game.

“MLS is built on parity so you cannot take any team lightly,” goalkeeper Matt Lampson said. “We know they’re a good team. They went to Seattle this past weekend and gave them a hell of a game. We’re going to come in ready for a fight and we just got to play the way we have been playing, the way that we know we can play and it’s going to be really important for us to get three points.”

The game will be live on CSN+ with coverage beginning at 7 p.m. It is Star Wars Night at Toyota Park, thus all the references in this preview.

A disturbance in the Force has hit the Fire's defense in the form of injuries lately. Those injuries have played a role in the Fire’s recent slide with three regular starting defenders going down. Brandon Vincent (quad) and Joao Meira (calf) are out yet again, but Matt Polster (left knee) was training with the rest of the team this week and is listed as questionable. Vincent is back in training, but was limited and worked out on the side.

David Accam, the Fire player most likely to make the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs, is also listed as questionable with a hip injury. He had the same injury entering the Toronto game last weekend and played all 90 minutes.

Minnesota’s leading goal-scorer, Christian Ramirez, has missed the last two games. He sat out training on Thursday, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and is day-to-day. Another talented Force wielder, Ethan Finlay, scored on his debut for the Loons after being traded from Columbus. His goal gave Minnesota an early lead at the Western Conference leaders, but Minnesota ultimately succumbed to the Dark Side when Clint Dempsey drew and converted a penalty kick in the 94th minute.

“We have a chance to make three points at home against Minnesota and we have to,” Fire midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger said. “We will not make the mistake against Minnesota. They also played in Seattle a very good game away so we will give everything to get three points at home.”

The Fire (12-8-5, 41 points) are in third place heading into this weekend’s action and the schedule presents a good opportunity for the Fire to make ground in the standings. Not only are the Fire hosting last-place Minnesota, but the two New York teams face off Friday night. New York City FC is five points ahead of the Fire for second place while the Red Bulls are three points behind the Fire. A win against the Loons means the Fire will gain ground on at least one of those teams.

Midfielder Dax McCarty’s message heading the Minnesota game was more along the lines of “Do or do not, there is no try.” He does not expect an easy game.

“It’s actually the worst time to play Minnesota,” McCarty said. “We’re not playing well and they’re going to come in here with even more confidence that they can get a result.

“There are no easy games in this league, I can promise you that. Just because they’re where they are in the standings, they have talent and they’re well-coached. They have a lot of guys that can hurt you.”

Chicago Fire vs. Minnesota United

Where: Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Ill.

TV: CSN+

When: Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live

Records: Fire (12-8-5, 41 points), Minnesota (6-14-4, 22 points)

Live: Confident Fire face tough test vs. FC Dallas on CSN

Live: Confident Fire face tough test vs. FC Dallas on CSN

The Chicago Fire are on a three-game winning streak, but those wins have come against struggling teams. FC Dallas, tonight's opponent, provides a different level of opposition.

Dallas won the Supporters’ Shield and the U.S. Open Cup last year and was the last team in Major League Soccer to lose this season, only getting knocked off for the first time Saturday against San Jose.

The Fire host Dallas at Toyota Park on CSN with coverage beginning at 7 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live. The Fire (6-3-3, 21 points) have more points, but Dallas (5-1-4, 19 points) has played two fewer games.

“You can test yourself against one of the best teams in the league and kind of gauge where you’re at,” Fire defender Brandon Vincent said. “We’re confident and we want to go out there and battle with them.”

Vincent has been part of a defense that has two straight shutouts, although those came against the two-worst goal-scoring teams in the league in Colorado and D.C. Dallas’ attack isn’t the most prolific in the league (14 goals in 10 games), but is very dangerous on the counter.

“They have a ton of attacking talent,” goalkeeper Matt Lampson said. “They’re actually just a solid team throughout and we expect a very hard game, but we are a completely different team. I think we’ve started to prove that and it’s going to be a very good game.”

While the defense will be busy containing Maxi Urruti (6 goals, 2 assists), midfielder Kellyn Acosta has been a crucial two-way player for Dallas. The 21-year-old has become a key player in the middle with playmaker Mauro Diaz, who was third in MLS with 13 assists last year, still out with an Achilles tendon injury.

Dallas has allowed the fewest goals in the league this season, seven through 10 games. Both centerbacks, Matt Hedges and Walker Zimmerman, have emerged as national team prospects for the U.S.

UPDATE: Jon Arnold, who covers FC Dallas for the Dallas Morning News, reported that Urruti and Zimmerman didn't travel for the match. Dallas also plays Houston on Sunday.


Dallas has the talent, experience and credentials of a top team. The Fire are new to being a contender. Vincent and Lampson, both in their second years with the Fire, said they haven’t seen the team have this much confidence since they joined the team.

“This is something special,” Lampson said. “That just proves that guys like Juninho, Dax (McCarty) and Bastian (Schweinsteiger) coming in, the culture has completely changed and we have guys who will do anything to win. When you have every guy on the team that’s like that, then you’re going to get results, you’re going to have confidence when you play well and everybody on the field is going to play for each other.”

Chicago Fire vs. FC Dallas

Where: Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Ill.

TV: CSN Chicago

When: Coverage begins 7 p.m. tonight with Fire Pregame Live

Records: Fire (6-3-3, 21 points), FCD (5-1-4, 19 points)