The Chicago Fire has a lot to think about as it heads to Major League Soccer's World Cup break.
After Saturday's 3-2 home loss to Seattle, the Fire (2-4-8, 14 points) sits in ninth place in the Eastern Conference. With 20 games to go after the break, the Fire is far from the 50 points it needed -- but failed to get -- to make the 2013 playoffs.
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Captain Jeff Larentowicz couldn't contain his frustration.
"It's incredibly hard to take, maybe the toughest so far," Larentowicz said after taking a few minutes to consider his words in a quiet postgame locker room.
Larentowicz suggested his teammates use this break wisely to consider how they can save what looks like will be yet another lost season. The Fire plays its first U.S. Open Cup game of the season June 18 at Toyota Park, but it doesn't play an MLS game again until Toronto FC visits July 2.
Coach Frank Yallop has given the players the week off.
"We have to decide," he said. "Everyone has to go home this week and figure out if they're content with where we are. Figure out if they're content with coming in after games and saying, 'Oh, well, we did all right. We didn't score or we didn't finish that chance.'
"Or they can make a difference, they can make a change. I don't know what happened around the league, but we're at the bottom of the conference, so we have to make a move. We have to stop being content with half-chances and 1-goal losses, ties at home."
Larentowicz emphasized effort is not the issue. The Fire didn't lose for lack of effort Saturday. They lost for lack of timely effort. They lost because other than rookie Harry Shipp's 2 goals, nobody made plays when they needed to.
"It's not the effort," he continued. "It's not the effort. It's critical moments in the game when players make a difference or don't make a difference. At the moment we're not making that difference."
Larentowicz didn't mention names, but Fire central defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado made the wrong kind of difference in the 37th minute when he picked up a second yellow card for a two-footed tackle that also earned the Sounders a penalty kick.
The PK was the first of 2 goals on the night for Seattle's Obafemi Martins, who earned a red card himself just five minutes later for striking the Fire's Benji Joya in the mouth.
But even Martins' actions couldn't spur the Fire to pull out a victory. From here the playoffs look a long, long way away. An MLS championship isn't even a consideration at this point.
"I think the goal is always to make the playoffs," said Larentowicz, who won an MLS Cup with Colorado. "Come in and say we're going to be the MLS champs, you have to work for it, you have to fight for it, you have to fight to get into the playoffs. Period.
"Then you can move on. Then you can rewrite your goals. At the moment, sure we've hung with teams, sure we've played well against top competition, but we haven't gotten over that hump."
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