After the Fire’s 1-0 loss Wednesday night to D.C. United the focus could have been on some micro issues. The absences of David Accam, Shaun Maloney and Matt Polster were a problem, and the Fire’s choice not to use their third and final substitution late in the match got some attention.
But with the Fire sitting last in MLS at 4-9-2 and on a four-game league losing streak, those questions are beginning to feel trivial. After a busy and aggressive offseason that brought in three Designated Players, the Fire were supposed to be an exciting and offensive-minded team that could win games with flair.
Instead, they stayed on 14 points to set a team record for the fewest through 15 games. With that in mind, coach Frank Yallop was asked whether the Fire job has been harder than he expected.
During an answer that spanned 365 words and ran for over two minutes, Yallop was at times blunt.
“Results have shown that,” said Yallop, who fell to 10-19-20 with the Fire. “I like a challenge, and I think it certainly is a challenge.”
That challenge is proving to be a big one. Yallop made note of league-leading D.C. United’s poise and how the Fire need a lot of chances to score. He spoke about the task of building a team that can win no matter the circumstances of a match, and also acknowledged that time isn’t unlimited for the 2015 Fire or him as the coach if things don’t get better.
“That’s the hardest thing in sports, is getting the right chemistry and the right balance. I felt the group we’ve got right now, maybe adding a few pieces to it, is going to be good,” Yallop said. “But obviously, time runs out a little bit on seasons. We’ve got to start to win.
“Obviously, I’ll be under pressure if I don’t win, but I don’t give up. I keep going and usually in the end I get the group to go in the right direction, and then I’m very determined to do that here because I feel for the fans first and foremost. And the people that work (for) the club, and (owner Andrew Hauptman). He really wants to do well and he’s given me everything in his resources to help me.
“It was a shame we didn’t have our guys on the field tonight but hopefully they’ll get healthy soon and we can really start to basically put out the team that I felt is going to do pretty well in the league. Games are slipping by, and as you know in this league, they’re hard to catch up but it won’t be from lack of trying from our players and the coaching staff and staff.”
Unfortunately for the Fire and their fans, those words sound all too familiar.
If the situation doesn’t change soon, the Fire will be out of the playoffs for the third straight season and fifth year in six. Once one of MLS’ most consistent winners, the Fire have fallen from their spot in the league hierarchy and haven’t been able to replicate their early success much over the past few years.
Asked why that’s happened, Yallop didn’t know but said “we’re putting all our efforts into it.” Over another lengthy answer, Yallop bemoaned some of the absences and alternately questioned the team’s work ethic in some games but also seemed to praise his players, noting how hard they work in practice and sounding confident in their levels of commitment.
“I’ve only been here a year and a half, so you guys have been here a little bit. We’ve got to keep going,” Yallop said. “I feel we’ve got enough talent on the roster to get it going for sure, once we get everyone healthy and back on the field. If, buts and maybes doesn’t get it done.”