This is not where the Fire intended to be in the middle of June.
They’re 4-8-2 in league play and 18th overall in MLS. They have dropped three straight games, allowing eight goals and even squandering one win by scoring twice on themselves. The soccer they’ve played has been somewhat attractive, but the scoring hasn’t materialized. Winning last Saturday at New England wasn’t going to be easy anyway but their hopes weren’t helped by the decision to move the game from April to the middle of an international window, costing the Fire three important players.
With all that, an optimist would look at Tuesday’s match with the USL’s Louisville City FC in the fourth round of the US Open Cup as a chance to get a victory and start a new streak. A pessimist would see it as an opportunity for more embarrassment in a competition the Fire have won four times, made even worse by getting eliminated at home by a team sitting fourth in the Eastern Conference of American soccer’s third-tier league.
Either way, Tuesday’s match feels like a crossroads and a big game for reasons beyond survival in a tournament.
“As we know, things can change quickly,” Fire coach Frank Yallop said. “We’ve got to win and no better start of getting a good result in the Cup and obviously if you can beat D.C. (United) in the next game at home (on June 24), then you can start looking forward to the other games.”
Once again, the Fire will be without David Accam and Joevin Jones because of their international duty while Shaun Maloney could be available off the bench. Mike Magee (left hamstring) and Patrick Nyarko (right knee) won’t play either, and the Fire will be on the field three days after the 2-0 loss at New England.
But in all honesty, the Fire should win anyway. They’ll be facing a team whose leading scorer is Matthew Fondy, a player who made eight appearances for the Fire last year and didn’t score once, something that signifies the distance between MLS and the USL.
Yallop acknowledged this isn’t the kind of game the Fire don’t want to stub their toes on.
“I fully agree with that,” Yallop said. “We want to do well, not just in the Cup we want to get a win and get going again.”
NOTE: The Fire recalled Homegrown midfielder Collin Fernandez from his loan to Louisville City.