Chicago Fire drop to 1-5-1 after a 1-0 loss to CF Montréal at Soldier Field: ‘I don’t think it’s a mental block, I don’t think it’s anything mental’

·4 min read

The Chicago Fire thought they had snatched a last-gasp equalizer Saturday at Soldier Field when defender Wyatt Omsberg’s header looped into the corner of the net.

Instead, they will go into an international break with the sour taste of a 1-0 defeat to CF Montréal (3-3-2, 11 points). Omsberg’s goal was disallowed after video review showed striker Chinonso Offor was offside during the buildup.

The Fire missed out on a chance to tie CF Montréal, which found just enough of a soft spot in the Fire defense in the 87th minute for Mason Toye to head in the winner.

It was that kind of afternoon for the Fire (1-5-1, 4 points), who couldn’t follow up on their first victory of the season a week ago. They controlled long stretches of the game and forced Clément Diop to make six saves — but couldn’t make the most of their chances in front of 6,680 on the lakefront.

“It’s very frustrating,” Fire coach Raphael Wicky said. “Overall we controlled the game well. We were, in my opinion, clearly the better team. ... It’s frustrating. It’s disappointing going into a three-week break with this result, especially when you see that this is a game where we were the better team.”

FC Cincinnati’s 1-0 loss to the New England Revolution prevented the Fire from dropping to the bottom of the 14-team Eastern Conference and combined 27-team Supporters’ Shield standings.

The Fire, who don’t play again until June 19, have just four points of a possible 21, and that lack of success combined with their inability to overcome obstacles — they are 0-14-4 under Wicky when conceding first — added to the team’s frustration level.

“I don’t think it’s a mental block, I don’t think it’s anything mental,” Omsberg said. “We just need to keep doing the right things. We keep working hard. We just need to be a little bit better all around for little details. But I don’t really think it’s a mental thing, or a physical thing, we’re doing the right things. We just need to be just a little bit better, and it’s frustrating.”

When asked if Saturday’s result showed a lack of confidence to score, Wicky said the Fire “looked good, looked sharp.”

“I don’t think the team was low on confidence,” he said. “It’s just for some reason we had these big chances and we didn’t score on them. We have these little moments, these half-chances where the ball doesn’t go in. Why is that? I cannot give you the answer. The reality is we need too many chances to score a goal.”

The match was something of a revenge game for Djordje Mihailovic, whom the Fire traded in the offseason in a deal worth up to $1 million. Mihailovic, 22, came out of the Fire’s youth academy in 2017 and led the team last season with seven assists.

The Fire’s frequent defensive lapses were on display for the deciding goal.

Toye found himself unmarked between Omsberg and Fire captain Francisco Calvo about 8 yards from goal, easily rising to head Zorhan Bassong’s cross. Fire fullback Boris Sekulić said after the game he should have done better to prevent the cross.

“It was on our right side, so for sure I could have done more to stop this cross,” Sekulić said. “Their striker is very tall, so he got the ball and they scored by first actually establishing this cross. And then the box defending was a problem.”

Both teams were sloppy in the scoreless first half, but neither was able to capitalize on the other’s mistakes.

Montréal nearly opened the scoring in the 20th minute after taking advantage of a giveaway, but Bobby Shuttleworth came up with a big save on Bjørn Johnsen. In the 28th minute, Fire homegrown Brian Gutíerrez, making his third straight start, had a close effort saved by Diop.

The Fire’s best opportunity came from Fabian Herbers in the 75th minute, but again Diop denied the Fire.

The Fire’s next game will be on the road against the Columbus Crew.

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