The Fire’s playoff run was over less than 15 minutes after it started so what the heck happened?
From the run of play the Fire were competitive with the New York Red Bulls with both possession and total shots being fairly even. However, two defensive blunders, with multiple players at fault on each of the early goals, put the Fire down 2-0 in 11 minutes.
There was no coming back from that and once the team sent numbers forward late in the second half to try to come back, New York put the game away. The 4-0 loss was a sour way for the Fire’s season to end.
“I thought we got outplayed all over the field,” said midfielder Dax McCarty, a former Red Bulls player. “That’s a team that’s been battle tested in the playoffs now for five, six years. They’ve experienced a lot of hard games, a lot of tough games in the playoffs. They’ve experienced a lot of disappointed in the playoffs and we aren’t quite there yet.”
Bastian Schweinsteiger didn’t start and played only 25 minutes after coming off a calf injury. While the German said he felt good, there wasn’t much he could do. Five minutes after he entered the match, the Red Bulls took a 3-0 lead.
Coach Veljko Paunovic wasn’t angry or despondent in his postgame press conference. He tried to stay upbeat while looking towards next year. He also took the blame for the ugly 4-0 loss.
“It’s my fault,” Paunovic said. “Obviously it’s my fault. If there is somebody to blame it’s my fault because I think we all could do better.”
[RELATED: Even after playoff failure, Fire's season marked significant progress]
The Fire finished with the third best record in Major League Soccer, but laid an egg in the postseason. There’s plenty of ways to look at that. The team didn’t have enough experience, they were shorthanded due to injuries, they played tight.
Throw any excuse out there, all that matters is the team made a quick exit out of the playoffs and now the offseason has begun.
“It’s just frustrating that we lost and we lost in such a frustrating manner,” McCarty said. “We worked hard, we showed heart, but realistically we barely put up a fight there in the beginning. I thought the first 20 minutes we were struggling to feel like we were in a playoff game. You can’t do that if you want to win.”
Schweinsteiger’s future, along with the futures of many players, will remain in question for the coming weeks. The German’s final words of his first year with the Fire were all positive. He spoke positively about the coaching staff and the teammates, but admitted the team wasn’t good enough yet to win a title.
“I think it was a great success, achievement, what we did this season,” Schweinsteiger said. “I think you need to add one or the other piece. If you have 10 steps, I think we took seven. Eight, nine, 10 those are the hardest ones.”
McCarty echoed Schweinsteiger’s sentiment.
“A lot of guys took a big step forward, but we just weren’t quite ready to make a real realistic push at a championship and that showed in our performance tonight,” McCarty said.