For just the fourth time since 1997, the Chicago Fire completed a sequence of four consecutive losses - two at home and two away - in MLS play. It began in the nation's capital with a 3-1 defeat to D.C. United on June 3, and resumed three days later with a crushing 3-2 setback to Orlando City SC.
Without David Accam, Shaun Maloney and Joevin Jones - all fulfilling international duty - the Men in Red then stumbled in a 2-0 loss at the New England Revolution on June 13.
Against Ben Olsen's side once again, Frank Yallop's group flubbed the chance to climb up from the bottom of the Eastern Conference table, leaving them without an MLS win in June.
Before the Fire wrap up the month and shift their attention to a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 fixture against Charlotte Independence next week, let's look at the five things to take from Wednesday night's 1-0 defeat to the Black and Red.
1. "The belief is there, the result and the product isn't." Those were the words of defender and captain Jeff Larentowicz following the Fire's second home defeat of 2015, a 2-1 decision against Western Conference outfit Real Salt Lake on May 9. Nearly seven weeks later, the same rings true. Barring the raw, season-opening performance at the LA Galaxy and uninspiring pair of defeats to Vancouver Whitecaps FC and the San Jose Earthquakes, the Men in Red have largely measured up to their opposite numbers through 15 games, but have had little to show for it in the points column.
2. 1-4-2. In a seven-match stretch against Eastern Conference opponents - which opened with a 2-2 draw to Jason Kreis's New York City FC on May 15 and culminated in Wednesday's downfall - the Fire pried four points from 21 available. It's led to a six-point gap between themselves and the coveted fifth playoff spot currently occupied by the New York Red Bulls, who sit on 20 points.
3. Detrimental absence of Shaun Maloney, David Accam. Let's face it. All three of Yallop's Designated Players haven't exactly hit their stride this season. But through 15 regular season matches, in only six have they all featured alongside each other. And, not to mention, not once have they all done so for a full 90 minutes. It's been a small component of the greater, niggling dilemma for the last-place Fire, who, needless to say, have yet to discover a like-mindedness.
Between Maloney, Accam and Kennedy Igboananike, the newly acquired trio may be at the forefront of some of the criticism directed toward the team in the latest spate of results, but Yallop insists on, first and foremost, getting his team to full strength. "We've got to keep going and I feel like we have enough talent on the roster to get it going, once we get everyone healthy and feel better," he said. "If, buts, and maybes don’t get it done.”
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4. Sean Johnson in fine form. An infected right arm, eye laceration and injured hand kept the 26-year-old from securing a starting spot a third of the way through the season. Since veteran net minder Jon Busch took over the reins following the Fire's visit to the bronx mid-May, Johnson was in fine fettle as he recaptured the No. 1 jersey in the Men in Red's fourth-round Open Cup triumph over Louisville City FC. Yallop entrusted him with the responsibility against D.C., and the unfortunate injuries that hampered the beginning of his season seemed to be a thing of the past.
His flurry of first-half stops to deny Facundo Coria and Jairo Arrieta in the 19th and 24th minutes, followed by a diving save to thwart Bobby Boswell's header early in the second stanza kept the Fire in the game. That alert play, however, was blighted by an unstoppable bullet from Conor Doyle in the 73rd-minute.
5. One chance is all it takes. Doyle's goal rippled the net like arguably nothing anyone in attendance had seen for quite awhile at Toyota Park. And, regrettably for Yallop & Co., it was all that was needed for the visitors to walk away with three points in their pocket. It's another grating and familiar reality that continues to plague the Men in Red, which Yallop alluded to in his post-match press conference.
"D.C. is a group that sort of grinds through everything, they got some talent obviously but don’t get flustered with whatever happens in the match," he said. "I think they had one header and the goal. They didn’t have a ton of chances but that didn’t really matter to them. Our group seems like they need a lot of the chances to get one goal. I think we didn’t create enough to get that one goal."