Fire squander another two-goal lead, settle for 2-2 tie with Union

The Fire ran their unbeaten streak to five but missed a chance to beat the reigning Eastern Conference champions.

SHARE Fire squander another two-goal lead, settle for 2-2 tie with Union

Brian Gutierrez and the Fire entered Saturday sixth in the Eastern Conference.

Courtesy of the Fire

The Fire talk like they want to be a playoff team this season. They have played some good soccer and have been entertaining to watch.

None of that will matter, however, if they can’t fix the issue that cropped up again in their 2-2 tie Saturday against the Union.

After taking a 2-0 lead, the Fire wilted against a team that had played Wednesday in Mexico in the CONCACAF Champions League. Daniel Gazdag scored on a penalty kick in the 62nd minute, and Julian Carranza tied the score three minutes later to help MLS’ reigning Eastern Conference champions wipe out the deficit.

This was only the latest time the Fire (2-1-4, 10 points) had struggled to hold a two-goal lead this season. They fumbled away a 3-1 lead at home against FC Cincinnati and were lucky to escape with a 3-3 tie, gave up a 2-0 lead at Inter Miami before Kei Kamara’s late winner and almost surrendered another two-goal advantage against Minnesota United before holding on for a 2-1 victory.

The Fire extended their unbeaten streak to five games, but Saturday felt like another missed chance. They were unable to win the finale of their three-game homestand and have only one victory in five home matches.

Coach Ezra Hendrickson said he thought the game turned on Gazdag’s goal, which came after defender Miguel Navarro was called for bringing down Mikael Uhre following failed Fire clearances.

‘‘Like I told [the players], at home, you have to have the mentality of, even if it’s not a loss . . . this felt like a loss,’’ Hendrickson said.

Hendrickson and the Fire might have experienced other losses, even while midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri returned from his four-week absence when he came on as a substitute in the 65th minute. The Fire have injury worries after defender Carlos Teran left in the 58th minute, midfielder Gaston Gimenez was replaced coming out of halftime and forward Fabian Herbers departed in the 80th.

The losses of Teran and Gimenez didn’t help, but the Fire still could have won.

In front of an announced crowd of 12,811 at Soldier Field, Maren Haile-Selassie turned a low cross from Navarro in the 19th minute into his first MLS goal to give the Fire a 1-0 lead. That lead grew in the 47th, when the Fire benefitted from an own goal. The Union’s Jakob Glesnes was under pressure and tried to clear the ball, but it hit teammate Nathan Harriel. The ball ricocheted off Harriel and over Union goalie Andre Blake, and the Fire looked as though they would get payback for a 1-0 loss March 11 in Philadelphia.

Despite that defeat, the Fire were happy with how they played against one of the best franchises in MLS. They were down a man for most of the second half and came minutes from stealing a point and since have built on that outing and used it as proof of concept.

What happened Saturday shouldn’t make anybody happy. The Fire could’ve held the lead or taken advantage of opportunities to score more.

Neither happened.

‘‘We can’t capitalize on those chances,’’ Herbers said. ‘‘I feel like if we use those chances, we can put the game away, and then it kind of happens again. We give up a cheap penalty, and then you can almost already see it coming on the field. I hate to say that, but that’s what I felt.’’

NOTE: Listed as questionable entering the game, midfielders Jairo Torres (upper right leg) and Federico Navarro (upper left leg) were not on the game-day roster.

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