If last season proved anything to the Chicago Fire, it’s that a midseason slump can be overcome.
The Fire’s slide the past couple of weeks is a concern, but no reason for panic.
“Just as a team, we’ve had a tough stretch,” defender Jalil Anibaba said. “It’s part of the game, part of the season, and we’ve got to fight back.”
The Fire (5-5-3, 18 points) — which has lost three straight games, all on the road, including last week’s upset to the Michigan Bucks in U.S. Open Cup action — doesn’t play until June 17, when it hosts the New York Red Bulls after a break for international games.
“These things happen, and they happen every year,” captain Logan Pause said. “You try to minimize them, you try not to let it get ahead of you, but we’ve had a lot of games lately.
“It hasn’t been easy, but this break we’re trying to use for good. We’re trying to get back to our basics. We’re putting in the work in training and making sure we’re getting after it.”
They’re also using the time to heal some muscle pulls and bruises. A handful of regulars sat out Wednesday’s training, and the team is taking a few days off to get away from soccer a little before returning Monday.
That raises the question, is this break coming at a good time for the Fire?
“Yes and no,” Anibaba said. “It’ll help us get our legs back, recover after the long May. But also it kind of leaves a bad taste in your mouth.”
At least it’s not as bad as last year. The Fire went 1-4-8 to start last season, finishing at 9-9-16 and just missing the playoffs for a second consecutive season.
“If you put the seasons side by side you can see that, but we’re still not satisfied with where we are,” Pause said. “We’re not necessarily saying, yeah, things are great because we’re better at this point than last year. We’re not satisfied being .500, being middle of the table. We want to strive for the best, we want to be the best. That’s why we’re here every day.”
One player who will benefit from time off is veteran central defender Arne Friedrich, who has been out with a hamstring pull. Friedrich expects to return for the June 17 game.
“This is always bad, because when I got my injury I was probably at 80 percent of my physical strength,” said Friedrich, who signed with the club in March, missing the preseason.
“It is very sad for me that I have to start from, I guess, 50 percent again. I was out for three or almost four weeks then, and it’s tough for the body and as well for the head.”
In the past, Friedrich, a former German international, would have been getting ready for the European championships that start Friday. But at 32 Friedrich is now a fan, and he sees his countrymen getting to the semifinals, if not further.
“Two tough games in the beginning,” he said. “They play Portugal and Holland. Holland looks to me to be the best team in the group, one of the favorites in my eyes for the European championship. But I guess Germany will go through to the semifinal minimum, and I wish them the best.”
Friedrich said he has no regrets about not playing for his country now.
“It was my decision,” he said. “I could also decide that I still play in Europe, but I didn’t want to do that. When I took my decision it was clear I would not play for the national team anymore because it’s hard here in America, but this was my decision, and I’m certainly happy to be here. I like the city, I like the club.”
Follow Orrin’s soccer reports on Twitter @orrinsoccerCopyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.