Fire try to rebuild momentum after loss

Saturday’s match against Nashville SC starts a three-game homestand for the Fire, who only have two league wins this year in Chicago.

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Rafael Czichos and the Fire host Nashville on Saturday night.

Courtesy of the Fire

Even after their 3-1 loss Saturday at Orlando City, the Fire had a solid road trip. Victories at the Portland Timbers and Sporting Kansas City gave the Fire a sense of belief and pushed them closer to an Eastern Conference playoff spot.

Now they must keep the momentum going.

The match Saturday against Nashville SC starts a three-game homestand for the Fire (5-7-8, 23 points). To maintain their drive for the postseason, the Fire know they can’t squander this opportunity at Soldier Field during a stretch that also includes games against CF Montreal and Toronto FC.

To do that, they’ll have to shrug off the loss to Orlando and recover against Nashville (11-5-5, 38 points), one of the best teams in MLS.

“We just have to regroup now, obviously look at this game and correct some things and get ready, because we have a good homestand now with the next three games, and one game at a time,” coach Frank Klopas said after the Orlando game. “This is a moment where we need to get points at home and not drop any points at home.”

Dropping points at home has been an issue for the Fire. In nine games, the Fire have lost just once. The problem is that they’ve only won twice, squandering valuable opportunities to rise up the standings.

If that continues, the two victories away from home will be nothing but a blip.

“Yeah, of course we came [to Orlando] to get a result, to get three points, and it’s disappointing that we were not able to make this happen,” captain Rafael Czichos said after the Orlando match. “But at the end of the day, I think if you would have made me an offer two weeks ago and would have said, ‘you’re going to win two of the three [road] games, do you want to accept it?’ I probably would have said ‘yeah, of course.’ 

“So we are not allowed to be too frustrated and disappointed. We are going to move on and now focus on Nashville at home. We have three games at home finally, and that’s what we have to do next week, so focus on Nashville.”

The last time the Fire played Nashville, they fielded a weakened lineup in anticipation of an upcoming U.S. Open Cup match and lost 3-0 in perhaps their worst performance of the year. That game on May 6 was also the final night on the sidelines for coach Ezra Hendrickson, who was dismissed two days later.

The decision to sack Hendrickson and promote Klopas was meant to save the Fire’s season. Whether or not it was Hendrickson’s fault, the Fire looked like a team in trouble when they were routed in Tennessee, and one that had little or no hope of making something of 2023.

At least now, the Fire have a pulse. That pulse could either get stronger or weaker depending on how they react to the loss in Orlando.

“It’s always about the next game,” Klopas said. “We had good momentum but I think we have to keep grounded.”

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