BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – It’s perhaps a measure of the recent progress the Chicago Fire have made that Saturday’s dramatic late tie with the Montreal Impact, off a stunning Fire equalizer deep in injury time, felt like a defeat.
The arrival of Bastian Schweinsteiger has brought an heightened level of attention to a club that has finished last in MLS two seasons running, but with the the German World Cup winner on board, it is clear there is a sense of greater expectations around the team.
As such, to only tie a game they largely dominated did not sit well with Schweinsteiger, who admitted, “I'm a little bit sad and not so happy that we couldn't win the game,” despite scoring a well-taken debut goal and earning Man of the Match plaudits on his first start for the Fire.
Veljko Paunovic’s men enjoyed an impressive 60 percent possession against an Impact side shorn of several regular starters, including perennial talisman Ignacio Piatti, and with more composure in front of goal could have won the game. However, a combination of poor finishing and the alertness of Evan Bush in the Montreal goal restricted them to two goals, with Schweinsteiger almost adding a second himself with a cute side-footed volley off a corner kick, which narrowly missed wide in the 82nd minute.
He also pierced the Impact rearguard with one of his trademark, defense-splitting through balls, the first of which led to a red card for Montreal’s Victor Cabrera in the 80th minute for a foul on substitute and injury-time goal hero Luis Solignac. The same player squandered a one-on-one with Bush from the German’s second sublimely threaded ball.
"I think we can improve a little bit,” Schweinsteiger insisted. “We had a few good chances, actually. We had a few good passes, especially in the last part of the game. I think we need to finish a little bit better so it makes it easier for us to control the game a little bit more."
Schweinsteiger’s presence and poise on the ball was pivotal to most good things the Fire did, and his 87 percent pass completion helped the Fire record a season-best 84 percent pass completion overall. Midfield partner Dax McCarty lead the team with most overall passes completed, 76/86 also for 88%, with another bullish display that complemented Schweinsteiger perfectly.
McCarty, who enjoyed his best game in a Fire shirt and provided the assist on the leveler, was less diplomatic in his assessment of the game, pulling no punches with typical honesty as he looked back on two points dropped at home.
“You get an equalizer in the 93rd minute, you want to be happy, you want to feel like it's a positive result, but it's not,” McCarty urged. “It's not a positive result in the least bit. It's a terrible result, actually. It's going to be tough watching video next week. Defensively, it was just shambolic the way we conceded those two goals. If you want to win games in this league, it's going to be impossible if we concede soft goals like that.”
This was the first leg of an three-game home stand before the Fire hit the road for difficult assignments in Toronto, at the New York Red Bulls and finally at the LA Galaxy. With home games to come against Columbus Crew SC and the New England Revolution before that stretch, McCarty agreed that these have become “must-win” despite being just four games into the new season.
“Every game at home is a necessary three points,” he said. “Sometimes in a game like today where you probably should have taken three points, but then you're 2-1 down in the 90th minute, but you come back and get a draw, it feels good but it's not a good result. You always want to get three points at home no matter what, especially with them missing three or four starters. It's a game we should win, there's no excuses. It's absurd that we end up not getting three points from this game.
“From my view, it's just bad lapses defensively that concede goals. On the attacking end, we create plenty of chances, we just aren't quite very sharp right now.”