Xherdan Shaqiri says Fire ‘still have a lot to learn’

Shaqiri didn’t elaborate on what the Fire need to learn exactly, but the designated player pinpointed issues that need to be addressed.

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Xherdan Shaqiri and the Fire play Sunday at Atlanta,

Courtesy of the Fire

Xherdan Shaqiri has seen a lot during his career. He has played in Europe’s top leagues, been on teams that won the most prestigious club prizes and appeared in four World Cups with Switzerland.

Based on that résumé, it’s obvious Shaqiri knows what leads to success. Seven games into the 2023 season, it’s unclear how close the Fire are to reaching another level.

“We have taken a step forward, but we still have a lot to learn, and we will have to grow,” Shaqiri said after the Fire’s 2-2 tie Saturday with Philadelphia. “Because you can see we’re not where we wanted to be, and that’s why it’s going to be a hard year, and we want to reach our goals. For that, we need very good performances because we know how good the teams are here.”

Shaqiri was speaking after the Fire (2-1-4, 10 points) had once again blown a two-goal lead at Soldier Field, turning what should’ve been three points into one. He didn’t elaborate on what the Fire need to learn exactly, but the designated player pinpointed issues that need to be addressed.

“I don’t think it’s the right time to say what we have to learn because you see this from outside, too, and you can judge this, but I think, like today, we need to learn to manage the game better,” Shaqiri said. “We need to keep the ball more and try to dominate teams more and more. This is what I want from this team, and we need to grow and try to be there, but this is also hard work. We need to practice this every day in training, and the players need to step up.”

Shaqiri is one of those players who needs to step up. His 25-minute cameo Saturday was his first appearance after missing four games. And he’s coming off a season in which injuries curtailed his production.

Dealing with health issues so early in 2023, however, didn’t seem to fluster him.

“This is normal in [soccer],” Shaqiri said. “This happens to everybody. You have to deal with this.”

With or without Shaqiri, the Fire, who play Sunday at Atlanta United (4-1-3, 15 points), might be looking at a close call to make the postseason for the first time since 2017. They enter the weekend eighth in the Eastern Conference.

Though the MLS playoffs have expanded to nine teams from each conference, the points the Fire have frittered away could prove fatal. They only have one victory in five home games. Having to make up points on the road would further complicate the Fire’s path. Not that it would be a clear lane even if they weren’t squandering advantages.

“It’s not simple to make the playoffs, but this is our goal, and we’re still in the beginning of the season,” Shaqiri said. “And in the end, we calculate and we’ll see, but this is our main goal, that we make the playoffs.”

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