Aug 11, 2018; Chicago, IL, USA; New York Red Bulls midfielder Marc Rzatkowski (90) defends against Chicago Fire midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger (31) during the first half at Bridgeview Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — Thanks to a Bradley Wright-Phillips goal, the Chicago Fire’s losing streak has reached seven straight in MLS games.
The Fire lost 1-0 Saturday night to the New York Red Bulls at Toyota Park. The loss comes on the heels of the team’s U.S. Open Cup exit Wednesday.
Despite the loss, the message from the locker room is that the team isn’t giving up on 2018 yet.
“It’s a culmination of just a really frustrating season,” midfielder Dax McCarty said. “We’re not going to give up. We’re going to continue to fight until someone says that we don’t have a chance to make the playoffs anymore.”
McCarty took blame for the Red Bulls’ goal. He got caught in possession following a Red Bulls corner. The resulting turnover led to the Wright-Phillips goal in the 55th minute. Wright-Phillips now has scored 15 goals in five consecutive seasons.
“I get caught and I f*** up, to be completely honest, trying to play out of the back,” McCarty said. “I have to take responsibility for that because I don’t think the guys deserved to lose this game.”
Neither team managed many chances in the match. The two teams combined for 13 shots and the Red Bulls had three shots on target to the Fire’s one.
Both McCarty and coach Veljko Paunović said the Fire’s mentality was right despite the loss. Paunović talked about a team meeting Friday where he wanted to make sure the team remained committed.
“We opened (the door) before the meeting and said, ‘Whoever is not committed to this cause, to this club and the goal and the commitment, the attitude, he is free to go,'” Paunović said. “Obviously nobody left, and that was, I think, a very important moment where the guys understood: the guys here, this is who you can rely on. Everyone has to give his best. That’s what I saw today. It’s not that in the past we didn’t give our best, but it’s different.”
The Fire’s two most dangerous attacking players, Aleksandar Katai and Nemanja Nikolic, both came on as second-half subs. Paunović explained that a lot of the players were “emotionally drained” after the Open Cup defeat at Philadelphia.
For the Red Bulls, the win moved them within a point of Atlanta for the Supporters’ Shield lead.
“That game could have gone either way tonight,” Red Bulls coach Chris Armas said. “To see our guys stick together, just stick together the right way in the tough moments makes you feel good to be a part of it. We’re making progress.”
The Fire are seven points out of a playoff spot with nine matches remaining.
“This year it seems like everything that can go wrong for us, will go wrong,” McCarty said. “We have to take responsibility as players. I think we’ve underperformed all season. Every guy in the locker room hasn’t performed up to a level required to just win numerous games in MLS. That’s on myself, as a captain of the club I need to be better, I need to play better and I need to keep myself on the field. We’re not going to give up.”