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Continuity only bringing more of the same for Fire, who lose 2-0 to Philadelphia

The Fire kept most of the 2020 team together, and so far the results look similar.

Fire defender Boris Sekulic tries to get past Philadelphia Union midfielder Leon Flach during Saturday’s game.
Courtesy of the Fire

The Fire expected different results with mostly the same team.

Predictably, the results are looking familiar.

A 2-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union on Saturday at Soldier Field extended the Fire’s season-opening winless streak to four. Dating to last season, the Fire haven’t won in 10 matches.

They’ve been outscored 9-1 since taking a 2-0 lead in their season-opening match against New England, and they followed up a dreary 2-0 loss last Saturday to the Red Bulls with another performance that fell apart in the second half.

Progress, if there is any, is hard to find. The breakdowns that cost last year’s team are costing this year’s team, and its 0-3-1 record shows it.

“It’s always the same,” captain Francisco Calvo said. “Since last year, I can come here and sit in this chair and say the same thing week by week because these four games are really not good enough for us and we need to change something.”

Coach Raphael Wicky did make two changes from the previous match, dropping midfielder Alvaro Medran and midfielder/defender Mauricio Pineda to the bench. Medran, arguably the team’s best player last year, had started every game since Wicky took over, but the switch made little difference.

Facing a Union team that played Tuesday in a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal, the Fire were outshot 15-9. Their best chance came in the 53rd minute, but striker Robert Beric missed the open shot, which could have equalized moments after Cory Burke gave the Union (1-2-1, 4 points) a 1-0 lead.

The Union’s Jakob Glesnes doubled the lead in the 60th minute, and many of the 6,457 in attendance booed the Fire off the field at the -final whistle.

The Fire didn’t hope for any of this when they kept last year’s team intact. Though they won only five games, the brass bet that continuity and a more routine season would bring improvement.

So far, it looks like a losing wager.

Through 27 games of their tenure, Wicky said the results he and sporting director Georg Heitz have produced are not good enough. At the same time, Wicky said they think the Fire are building a really good team and are happy with the roster.

“I believe in that, and we believe in that,” Wicky said. “But of course, at the end of the day, we need results. Those results are not here, those wins are not here, and that is why of course right now we’re not happy with where we are. But we keep believing in what we do, and we keep working.”

Clearly, they need to do a lot of work, or else 2021 will be more of the same in ways the Fire didn’t want. Calvo said the players take responsibility for what’s happening and need to change something.

“I don’t know if it is attitude, if it is decisions on the field, but we need to change something,” Calvo said. “That’s all I can say because I don’t have too many answers right now.”