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Listless draw with Real Salt Lake extends Chicago Fire’s winless streak

Aleksandar Katai and Albert Rusnak exchanged set piece goals in the first half in a 1-1 draw

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — The last time the Chicago Fire played, it was the low point of the 2019 season. Things didn’t get better on Saturday as the team’s winless streak marches on.

The Fire scored first, but settled for a 1-1 draw against Real Salt Lake at SeatGeek Stadium.

Aleksandar Katai scored off a free kick in the fifth minute, but Albert Rusnák tied the match for the visitors with a penalty kick before halftime.

“It shows that we had some resilience to go down that early in the game,” RSL coach Mike Petke said. “It could have gone, as we’ve seen in the past sometimes, a different way. Maybe try and stretch ourselves a little bit too much, too early to get that equalizer, but we stayed composed.”

After getting knocked out of the U.S. Open Cup by USL Championship side Saint Louis FC, the Fire were hoping to regroup in league play and get above the playoff line. Instead, the Fire are now winless in six matches, including the Open Cup defeat. The performance might have been more uninspiring than the result.

Katai got things off to a promising start for the Fire with a free kick from about 25 yards out that wrong-footed Nick Rimando. That was the last shot the Fire (4-6-7, 19 points) would have in the first half.

Mo Adams committed a handball in the box to give RSL (6-8-2, 20 points) a penalty kick in the 33rd minute. Rusnák converted for his sixth goal of the season.

Neither team threatened the goal much in the second half, both finishing with two shots on target.

The Fire revved things up a bit in the final minutes, but were unable to get another one past Rimando. The Fire were able to get the ball in good areas, often through Katai. However, that did not lead to many shots or goals.

“What we have to get better is obviously convert those opportunities,” Fire coach Veljko Paunović said. “In every one of our games you can see the same thing. There is no team that can defend against us, but we are not capable of killing and that’s pretty obvious.”

Jun 22, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Andrew Putna (51) takes the field against the Chicago Fire before the game at SeatGeek Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Midfielder Dax McCarty said drawing at home feels like a loss. He mimicked his coach’s words about the attack.

“I don’t think that anyone that has watched us play this year can say that we’re not creating good chances,” McCarty said. “I just think we’re not as fluid as we need to be in the attack. I think we lack a little bit of rhythm at times. It’s almost as if sometimes we rely a little bit too much on our players 1-v-1 ability, which is very good, to get us in the box. Then once we’re there when teams are deep and when it’s time to put the ball in the net, we just lack a little bit of that killer instinct.”

At the midway point of the regular season, the Fire are on pace for a 38-point season. McCarty said the team is disappointed and frustrated with the results so far.

“We expect more out of ourselves in this locker room and I know that there’s more out there for us,” McCarty said. “Not the result we wanted tonight. Definitely a frustrated locker room again, which has kind of been a little bit of the theme of the season. Got a little bit of momentum there a couple weeks back and then it’s kind of dissipated a little bit and now that big break and losing in the Open Cup and now drawing, it feels like we got to get going again.”

As of the final whistle, RSL remained in seventh in the Western Conference with the point.

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