In return to Bridgeview, Fire turn back clock with loss to NYCFC

The Fire played on a field meant for soccer. Their performance showed they’re probably not meant for the playoffs.

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Jairo Torres and the Fire struggled in a loss Sunday to New York City FC.

Jairo Torres and the Fire struggled in a loss Sunday to New York City FC.

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The Fire played on a field meant for soccer. Their performance showed they’re probably not meant for the playoffs.

During their 2-0 loss to New York City FC on Sunday, the Fire struggled to do much against a team that lost at home Wednesday and entered on a four-game winless streak. The game, which was moved to SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview because of expected playing conditions at Soldier Field, was reminiscent of old times at the suburban venue when the Fire would come up short in crucial situations.

That history isn’t any concern to coach Ezra Hendrickson. But he had plenty of other issues with the Fire (8-12-6, 30 points) and sounded like his predecessors after a tough day in Bridgeview.

“I wish I could give you an explanation, but I don’t have one because as I just told them inside, that was very disappointing,” Hendrickson said. “That was by far our worst performance this year and to give that type of performance at this time of the year, in this crucial, critical time of the season, it’s just not acceptable.”

On Wednesday, Hendrickson said it would take around 45 or 46 points for the Fire to make the playoffs. After Sunday, the Fire have eight games left and will need 15 or 16 out of a possible 24 points to reach those benchmarks.

Based on this performance, it doesn’t appear the Fire are capable of that kind of run.

“We have to remain confident,” Hendrickson said. “We have to remain with [the] belief that this is still possible. Everything’s so close. So I don’t think we’ve [lost] confidence, but we didn’t show up as a team today. We didn’t play Chicago Fire [soccer] like we’ve shown at times this year.”

It was clear early that it would be another Bridgeview disappointment for the Fire, who ended the day 12th in the East and five points out of a playoff spot.

NYCFC took a 1-0 lead in the 16th minute when the Fire gave Gabriel Pereira time and space outside the 18-yard box. He beat Gabriel Slonina with a shot into the top right corner.

The Fire also got a significant scare in the 24th minute when Kacper Przybylko attempted a header in front of the NYCFC goal and made contact with defender Malte Amundsen. Przybylko stayed down for several minutes and was bloodied but returned in the 32nd minute with a bandage around his head.

Przybylko was replaced by Jhon Duran in the 51st minute, but by then the Fire had conceded again. Normally reliable captain Rafael Czichos gave the ball away in front of the Fire net, and Santiago Rodriguez slotted it past Slonina for a 46th-minute goal.

A few minutes after the game, Czichos was still trying to figure out how the Fire flopped the way they did.

“We are really disappointed,” Czichos said. “I think you guys can feel it. It’s really quiet [in the dressing room]. It was a big chance for us to come back after the tough loss last week [to Philadelphia], but we didn’t make it. We have to keep up our head up and have to look forward to next week [against Montreal].”

That game is the Fire’s third in a row against top Eastern Conference contenders. They’ve dropped the first two.

The Fire know another performance like this will lead to a third defeat.

“We were too lazy today,” Czichos said. “Tough loss, but we have to keep our head up.”

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