The Chicago Fire's start to the 2015 MLS regular season has been anything but smooth sailing thus far. The Men in Red hit back at the three-match losing streak to begin the campaign with a run of three consecutive wins. Two straight defeats to Western Conference opponents - Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake - in a span of six days last month were followed by successive draws away to New York City FC and Columbus Crew.
Despite inflicting their most impressive win in recent memory on the Montreal Impact at the end of May, Frank Yallop's side has let two, crucial leads slip to D.C. United and most recently Orlando City SC.
With thirteen matches gone, captain Jeff Larentowicz contends it's time for the players to take ownership of their late defensive breakdowns, beginning with Saturday night's match at New England Revolution.
"It hasn't only been this week, it's been for a few weeks now," Larentowicz said Friday. "Those times when we lose leads and fall back on ourselves in games are when we do lose the team shape; we get pulled apart. It's been a several-week process. It is getting better, but it takes discipline; you have to stay patient with it."
Following back-to-back losses against Eastern Conference sides, the Fire slipped to ninth place in the standings only above New York City FC, who've played one more game and currently sit on 11 points.
Larentowicz, a 10-year MLS veteran, insists the gravity of the match against his former team - regardless of the Men in Red's form - is no different, however. Jay Heaps' outfit, lodged in second place and seven points back of table-toppers D.C. United, poses a unique, attacking threat that's seen it procure the joint-most goals (20) in the East along with D.C. and Columbus.
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"Everybody's focused for Saturday," he added. "Coming off two losses, you have to get out there and produce a good game. Not only are we in that situation where it's two losses, but we're playing on the road against one of the top teams in our conference.
"It was always going to be an important game whether we were on a five-game win streak or two-game losing streak. Everyone's extremely focused for the game and we want to turn things around.
"They have a lot of weapons in the front, however they line up. Even guys that come off the bench are dangerous: a guy like Diego Fagundez, who wasn't playing all the games, but can come on and score a goal. For us, it's going to be about managing the game."
A former MLS Cup winner with the Colorado Rapids and three-time finalist with the Revolution, Larentowicz is no stranger to success in the league. The only player to have played every minute for the Fire in 2015, the 31-year-old is in prime position to impart some of his wisdom onto the current and raw batch of players, who've experienced the parity of the league first hand.
"Once the week of training is over, the coach's job is pretty close to finished; it's the players' obligation to get things done," Larentowicz added. "Everybody has to be a leader on the field and do their part.
"If it's very early in the year and you've got a lot of new guys, you can blame cohesion or understanding of your role, but at this point the roles are pretty defined. The formation hasn't changed, the personnel has been pretty consistent. Everybody needs to lead themselves and lead the guys around them."