When the final whistle sounded at BMO Field on Saturday night, the Chicago Fire's fluctuating season and playoff chances, albeit improbable, were officially halted.
After extensive changes to the technical staff on the heels of a 1-0 setback to Orlando City SC on Sept. 19, the team's most recent stay in Canada yielded back-to-back defeats to the Montreal Impact and Toronto FC, spelling another taxing month for the Men in Red.
A club-record 18th loss at the weekend was enough to mathematically eliminate the team from postseason play, but Fire interim coach Brian Bliss insists morale has not wavered.
“We didn’t get a lot of time in terms of training, but the guys seem to be willing, good-spirited, up for the challenge," Bliss told reporters Monday via teleconference. "In this situation, with as many losses that have mounted up, usually you’ve got a lot of finger pointing and divisiveness in the locker room. That doesn’t seem to be the case at least from what I’ve noticed. Wished we would have had more time at home to do some training prior to, but the flipside was we got a lot of togetherness while on the road, and maybe that was a good thing, too."
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The Fire finished September with five consecutive losses, four of which came away from Toyota Park and three that saw Bliss' group maintain a lead. Ultimately, a collective commitment to defense and attack was lacking, and, with three regular season matches left to play, dignity and a responsibility to perform for an upset fanbase is on the line.
“That’s always the case, you hear that in any sport when you get down to it," Bliss added when asked if the next month serves as an audition for roster spots come 2016. "Coaches want to come out and pound a table and say, ‘You’re fighting for your jobs next year.’ I don’t want to go down that path because I don’t want to get into a position where I’m trying to threaten guys into trying to play better or buy into what we’re trying to do. They’ve got to find their own way to do that and show that.
"Guys are trying to play for next year, but they also should be playing for themselves and a little bit of self-pride, plus the fans. That’s what they should be rallying around, not so much rallying around a job.”
- Ty Harden suffered a groin strain, and had to step out of training on Friday prior to the Toronto game. "He was a late scratch from the lineup," Bliss said, "and probably in the same boat heading into the weekend [vs. New England Revolution].”
- Following his return from ACL surgery, Patrick Nyarko was replaced by Joevin Jones at the 55-minute mark after sustaining a knock. “Patrick had a collision in the first half that caused some swelling and some pain on the outside of his knee," Bliss added. "I believe he’ll be fine going into Thursday’s training and should be available for the weekend.”