Welcome to Chicago, Sebastian Grazzini. Fire fans hope you stay awhile, Pavel Pardo.
The club needs you both.
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No longer are ties the problem for the Fire (2-6-12, 18 points). Now the problem is losses. The Fire has two straight MLS losses after Saturday night's 1-0 defeat to the Portland Timbers.
That's the expansion Portland Timbers, which have beaten the Fire twice this season, including their first road victory in club history Saturday.
You can understand the boos from the Fire faithful after the game. You can understand midfielder Patrick Nyarko sitting at his locker, his face in his hands.
"We owe everything to them," Nyarko said of the fans. "They've been with us day in, day out, every day since the start of the season, and we've not been delivering for them. We owe everything to them, and they have the right to boo us or whatever it is."
"We knew it was a must-win game for us," veteran defender Cory Gibbs added. "In terms of mental preparation -- not saying our season's over -- but mentally it was a game that we had to win but we wanted to win for our fans. It didn't go our way. We just have to look at ourselves collectively and push forward from here."
This is the club just-signed midfielder Grazzini must breathe some life into when he hits the pitch. Maybe Mexican star midfielder Pardo will too. He was seen walking out of Toyota Park after the game.
"He likes Chicago," Fire technical director/interim coach Frank Klopas said, dismissing the significance of the 34-year-old's visit. Pardo has said he plans to join an MLS side.
The Fire doesn't play a league match again until the Aug. 3 home match against Philadelphia, taking a break to meet Manchester United next Saturday and for the All-Star Game. The break couldn't come at a better time.
"It helps," Gibbs said. "It helps. People need to come in with fresh minds and individually look at ourselves and understand what we need to do better. I think those 2½ weeks are going to be needed for a reflection period, not to go crazy but mentally stay tuned."
"I think this break comes in handy for us," Nyarko added. "Everyone should sit down and review. Everyone should sit down and look at himself and look at how we can help the team get back our winning ways after the break. This break helps us a lot to regroup, come back and hopefully make an assault on the second leg of the season. If you look at the table we're not really that out of it yet. We're still in the mix."
The Fire looked tired, slow, lacking the extra step needed to beat a defender off the dribble, possibly the result of having virtually the same starting lineup three times in the past week, including Tuesday's U.S. Open Cup victory.
"I don't think so," Klopas said. "I don't think so. The guys had more than enough time to rest and prepare. ... Playing at home, we didn't travel. That's not an excuse."
"No, there's no excuses," Gibbs agreed. "Some might say the ref didn't make good calls, but we lost. We didn't finish our chances. We hit the post several times. At the end of the day, we have to look at ourselves and see what we could have done better. Can't blame it on heavy legs. We're not in a position to."
The Fire was burned by two calls referee Elias Bazakos made.
The Portland goal came in the 25th minute on a Jack Jewsbury penalty kick after Gonzalo Segares fouled Jorge Perlaza. Bazakos also sent off defender Yamith Cuesta with a second yellow card in the 63rd minute.
The only bright spot? The commanding presence of second-year goalkeeper Sean Johnson, who made 6 saves.