Inconsiste­ncy, de­fen­sive break­downs have con­tin­ued de­spite team’s many changes

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - Twit­ter: @Bri­anSan­dalow BRIAN SANDALOW

So much has changed around the Fire, but af­ter eight games the team still looks in­con­sis­tent, like so many of its re­cent pre­de­ces­sors.

In their game Wed­nes­day at FC Cincin­nati (2-4-2, eight points), the Fire will be look­ing to re­cover from a 3-1 loss Satur­day at New York City FC. Though coach Raphael Wicky said the Fire didn’t come out of that game with a bad feel­ing be­cause they had some good mo­ments, it was still a loss.

‘‘What we want is to win games; that’s sports,’’ Wicky said. ‘‘You know how it is in foot­ball or sports in gen­eral: You get your con­fi­dence through re­sults. Re­sults give you con­fi­dence.’’

The Fire (2-5-1, seven points) got a good re­sult Aug. 25 against FC Cincin­nati at Sol­dier Field, win­ning 3-0 be­hind strong fin­ish­ing and a steady 90-minute per­for­mance. But any hopes of con­sec­u­tive vic­to­ries were snuffed out by is­sues that have plagued the Fire this sea­son: un­con­verted scor­ing chances and mo­men­tary break­downs cost­ing them goals.

‘‘I think against New York City we started off well, but in a cou­ple of mo­ments we re­laxed,’’ mid­fielder Al­varo Me­dran said Tues­day through a trans­la­tor. ‘‘They had their goal, and it was eas­ier for them.

‘‘So I think it’s just mo­ments where we lack a lit­tle bit of con­cen­tra­tion, and that’s some­thing we can fix. We can go back and work together and just be more fo­cused and con­cen­trated, and that’s how we can go ahead and re­solve that.’’

Mid­fielder Fabian Her­bers at­trib­uted the is­sues to some­thing that has af­fected ev­ery team in 2020, but per­haps the Fire even more be­cause of how much turnover their ros­ter has gone through since last sea­son.

‘‘We’re still a new team, and we’re still try­ing to find the rhythm,’’ Her­bers said. ‘‘With COVID, we had two games and then an­other three [in the MLS Is Back tour­na­ment] in Or­lando and then a big break again.’’

The Fire haven’t been helped by the long-term ab­sences of mid­fielder Luka Sto­janovic (left knee) and de­fender Jo­han Kap­pel­hof (hip flexor). Wicky said Kap­pel­hof hasn’t been part of full-team train­ing since March and ‘‘will take awhile.’’

And ver­sa­tile for­ward CJ Sapong, who had an ex­cused ab­sence to at­tend to a per­sonal mat­ter, is train­ing in­di­vid­u­ally but hasn’t played since the sea­son restarted.

Still, the Fire need to pick up points more reg­u­larly.

‘‘I still say — and I will tell that to the play­ers ev­ery day — to play with con­fi­dence, play with courage,’’ Wicky said. ‘‘There is no rea­son that you don’t have con­fi­dence. But it’s eas­ier said than done. I was a player, and I know how it feels. That’s how it is.’’

NOTES: Goal­keeper Bobby Shut­tle­worth (groin) prac­ticed Mon­day and Tues­day, but the Fire are wait­ing to see how he’s feel­ing be­fore de­cid­ing whether he’ll play Wed­nes­day. Con­nor Spar­row started in Shut­tle­worth’s place Satur­day.

Wicky said mid­fielder Djordje Mi­hailovic wasn’t used as a sub­sti­tute Satur­day be­cause of a stom­ach is­sue but has been in train­ing and is avail­able.


Mid­fielder Fabian Her­bers says the long lay­offs caused by the COVID-19 pan­demic have pre­vented the Fire from find­ing their rhythm.

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