CHICAGO – After opening the month of a July with a resounding home win over reigning MLS Cup champion Atlanta United, it’s been a rough go for Veljko Paunovic’s team in Major League Soccer play.
The Fire has lost three of their last four games, with the only non-loss coming in a tie to the Columbus Crew at home in a game which they led into the 90th minute. That includes a 2-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union on Saturday, which keeps the team winless on the road this season and drops their overall record to 5-10-8. Their 23 points are seven points out of the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference as their playoff hopes get a little farther away with each bad result.
At least the early part of this week gave the Fire a chance to regroup outside of league play in a new tournament.
On Tuesday, they hosted Cruz Azul in the first Leagues Cup, a single-elimination tournament featuring Liga MX, the top-tier soccer league in Mexico. It was an opportunity to get some play outside of the MLS since they were eliminated early from the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, along with a chance to pick up a much needed positive result.
But that wouldn’t happen at SeatGeek Stadium on Tuesday night, as Cruz Azul picked up a 2-0 win in front of a large group of supporters to advance in the eight-team tournament. It featured a different lineup from head coach Veljko Paunovic with the team playing third game in a week as he put seven different players in the starting 11.
Roberto Alvarado got the visitors on the board with a goal in the 43 minute and it held throughout the match, with Elías Hernández adding an insurance tally in the 90th minute.
Now the focus shifts back to MLS play, where the Fire have one more game before the All-Star break as they host DC United on Saturday night. A win would certainly help salvage something from a difficult middle and finish to the month of July