When chairman Joe Mansueto spoke with the Chicago Sun-Times on Thursday, the Fire were mired at the bottom of the standings. Mansueto, however, maintained a positive outlook.
“I like our chances over the course of the season,” he said.
On Saturday, the Fire were unable to back up their owner’s confidence, surrendering a two-goal lead in a 2-2 draw with the Columbus Crew at Soldier Field.
Robert Beric’s strike ended a personal seven-game dry spell, and Djordje Mihailovic connected before leaving with an ankle injury in the 22nd minute, but Fatai Alashe’s 68th-minute score and Gyasi Zardes’ 88th-minute equalizer extended the Fire’s winless streak to four games.
“For sure, we’re not happy,” Beric said. “This is more [of] a loss for us.”
The game had a familiar feel to lots of others this season. There were some promising moments, but the Fire missed chances to ice the game and were unable to seal three points against one of the best teams in MLS.
Like Beric, Fire coach Raphael Wicky said it felt like a defeat, though he also saw a lot of positives in a “good performance.”
“We created a lot; the team has a plan, and I saw that today,” Wicky said. “It’s just, obviously in our situation, you need wins, and when you have two minutes before the end, and you’re still winning and you have such big chances, it doesn’t feel good.”
Mansueto wants to see constant improvement, and he asserted that he’s witnessing it. He likes what Wicky and sporting director Georg Heitz have done and thinks the Fire (2-6-3, nine points) have exciting talent that will get better as the players jell.
“The direction is up,” Mansueto said. “Every game, I think they’re getting better. I’m still very optimistic about this season. The first goal is to make the playoffs, and I have full confidence in Georg and Raphael, and so we’ll get there.”
Mansueto again made it clear that the Fire are trying to construct something that will last. He mentioned the expansion of the scouting department and complimented Heitz’s work on that front. Mansueto is counting on the Fire to unearth promising young talent.
“What I’m trying to do from my position is to build a great organization, one that is positioned for long-term, sustainable success,” Mansueto said. “That’s about getting the right people in place, getting the right culture in place and starting to make those big organizational changes that will then lead to results on the field.
‘‘It’s not so much a matter of, ‘Hey, we’ve got to sign Player X or Player Y, and then everything will be great.’ It’s about getting the organization set first. Let’s get the right people, and then those good results will happen.
“I couldn’t be happier with Georg and [technical director] Sebastian [Pelzer] and [Wicky] and the whole sporting side.”