Fire lose to league-worst FC Cincinnati
Fanendo Adi’s 83rd-minute winner handed the Fire one of their worst losses of the season. The defeat figures to ramp up questions about the direction of the team.
The Fire have suffered some bad losses this season. Saturday’s might have been the worst.
Fanendo Adi’s 83rd-minute winner gave FC Cincinnati a 2-1 victory in a game that was delayed 59 minutes because of severe weather.
The matchup against Cincinnati, a first-year MLS team that entered the night in last place overall, seemed like a perfect opportunity for the Fire to pick up three points and keep pace in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
They didn’t even get one and heard boos at the final whistle.
“At some point, this is going to change,” coach Veljko Paunovic said. “It’s going to start to go our way. We just have to stay together, strong. This is a tough moment. We are capable, and we will do it.”
Before taking questions, Paunovic opened his postgame news conference with a rundown of the game.
“It’s a tough one, obviously,” he said.
A few questions later when asked about his job security, he admitted that he’s concerned about it every day but only because it’s a “profession where you always have to be ready for any kind of setbacks.”
“I’m absolutely confident that we are going to lift this up, that we are going to fix it,” Paunovic said. “I believe in our guys, and tomorrow I’ll be here working with them, giving them support and preparing them for the next match.”
That next match is Wednesday against Columbus, another team struggling in the Eastern Conference. Before that game, team president and general manager Nelson Rodriguez will hold a media roundtable, and Paunovic’s status and performance likely will be a topic of conversation.
It will be far from the only topic.
Despite their dominance on the stat sheet, the Fire only scored in the 45th minute when Nicolas Gaitan tapped in the rebound of his saved penalty kick. FC Cincinnati took a 1-0 lead in the first minute through Allan Cruz, then got the winner when Adi’s shot beat a diving Kenneth Kronholm.
Predictably, the Fire (5-9-7, 22 points) weren’t feeling great after the loss.
“What do you think? This is a terrible feeling,” defender Francisco Calvo said when asked about the team’s mood. “We wanted to win this game badly, but we couldn’t. I know it’s the word we always say, but we need to keep going. Let’s try to get that three points on Wednesday and try to turn this thing around because it’s not good enough.”
The game against Columbus gives the Fire another opportunity for three crucial points. The Fire only have 13 games left and will need to claw past several teams just to reach the bottom rungs of the playoff bracket.
“This group can do it,” Paunovic said. “We always look to improve, but this group can do it. I absolutely believe in the group we have, and I know it’s going to come. I know it’s there.”