Chicago Fire misses its goal of reaching playoffs

By Etheria Modacure

The Chicago Fire will be watching goals scored in the Major League Soccer playoffs from home. The Fire was eliminated from the postseason for the second time in franchise history after inconsistency, frequent lineup changes and a lack of dedication doomed the soccer club from reaching the MLS Cup.

Fire head coach Carlos de los Cabos spoke about the team’s lineup changes, which failed to build any cohesion between players. De los Cabos said the team will need to make changes come this offseason, speaking after the club lost to the Kansas City Wizards 2-0 on Oct. 12 at Toyota Park.

“We’re already focused on the changes we need to make for next year,” de los Cabos said through interpreter Frank Si Yuan. After it’s 3-1 victory against Chivas USA on Oct. 23, the Fire finished the season at 9-12-9.

The club’s major acquisitions this season failed to help the team reach the playoffs as newcomers Freddie Ljungberg and Nery Castillo didn’t provide any spark to the club.

Castillo was signed on July 17 as the Fire’s new designated player. A designated player means a MLS club can sign a player outside of his or her salary cap. Castillo, a native of San Luis Pestoli, Mexico, played for the national team and appeared in 21 games.

Ljungberg, who was acquired from the Seattle Sounders in a trade on July 30, didn’t have his best game until the season finale, when he scored one goal and had

two assists.

De los Cabos said during the club’s loss against the Wizards, the players didn’t have a good connection with one another during the game.

“This has been the face of the team,” de los Cabos said. “We have been inconsistent throughout the [season]. The consistency is based on the players’ level that arise throughout the games.”

The Fire’s loss to the Wizards came after the club beat Columbus Crew on Oct. 8. The club’s longest winning streak of the season was two games.

Finishing the season with just nine wins, their tied games truly hurt the club as it gave birth to inconsistency.

The Fire had three scoreless ties—one of them was in forward Brian McBride’s final home game with the Fire on Oct. 16 against the D.C. United. McBride is retiring after the regular season. He played with the Fire beginning in 2008 after a successful soccer career with the Columbus Crew and stints in the English Premier League with Preston North End, Everton and Fulham.

McBride said the club’s success came from all players working towards a common goal and when they weren’t, the club’s play became inconsistent.

“The games we come out and [we’re]fighting for each other, and 11 players are wanting to be out there and working for the team are the times we do well,” McBride said after the Fire’s loss to the Wizards. “It’s not about me. I’m extremely disappointed for our team and our organization and for our fans. That’s the minimum goal for us. When you don’t reach the minimum, it’s not

good enough.”

McBride was able to end his career with a goal in his final game against Chivas USA with an assist from Ljungberg.

The Fire had an array of talent on the field, but it never meshed as forward Patrick Nyarko was the club leader in 10 assists and spoke about the disappointment of not reaching the playoffs.

“We really didn’t come together as a team,” Nyarko said after the Fire’s loss to the Wizards. “You look at some of our play and it’s unbelievable we could not put it into a complete game.”

Fire defender and club captain C.J. Brown was adamant about his failure to be  a more vocal leader for the club with the lineup changes, personnel changes and players being unaware of what the Fire organization stands for. Brown, who has been with the club since its inaugural season in 1998 when it won the MLS cup, has decided to retire after the season.

Brown shared the same sentiments as his coach when he reiterated the club’s lack of cohesion to carry with them on the soccer field, especially after a win. He said after the club would get a win, the players typically followed up with mediocre play in their next game.

With the Fire only missing the playoffs once previously, Brown said he blames himself for its recent failure.

“I think this year we got away from the tradition, passion [and] honor of what we’ve always been about,” Brown said.

The retiring captain said he didn’t express to new players what a tradition they were playing for as he referenced some of the past Fire players’ pictures displayed in the club’s locker room. Brown said it’s a shame new players didn’t come to the club wanting to play for the name in front of the jersey and not the name on the back.

“It’s unfortunate we can walk away at the end of the season and not have any good performances,” Brown said. “I don’t think there were any signs of good soccer for us, and we stunk it up pretty bad.”