From the point of view of Chicago Fire captain Jeff Larentowicz, not much changed for the team during its World Cup break.
Judging by Wednesday night's 1-1 draw against Toronto FC at Toyota Park, he's right.
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"It's disappointing," Larentowicz said. "It's disappointing, the things we talk about are the little things. There's one chance in the game for the other team and tonight we were second best."
In its first MLS game since June 7, the Fire (2-4-9, 15 points) gained an early advantage when Toronto forward Luke Moore was shown a red card, forcing Toronto to play with 10 men the remaining 61 minutes.
It didn't help the Fire.
Toronto -- despite also missing goalkeeper Julio Cesar and midfielder Michael Bradley because of the World Cup -- scored first. Jermain Defoe's cross in the 42nd minute found Jackson wide open 6 yards in front of the Fire net for an easy header.
The Fire tied the game in the 56th minute on rookie Harry Shipp's sixth goal of the year. But despite generating 16 second-half shots, the Fire could only put 6 on target, letting Toronto off the hook.
Fire coach Frank Yallop, who stopped training Monday to chew out his players with a profanity-laced tirade for their lack of focus, passed on the chance to follow up. Instead he calmly described his continued frustration.
"I don't know if we did enough to win the game," Yallop said. "When it's 10 men against 11 we should win the game. We had our chances. It's a frustrating game. I've said that a few times when we've tied. Maybe we deserved to win the game, but we haven't, and that's our problem right now. We can't seem to win a game. We haven't lost a ton, but we haven't won many."
Larentowicz said Yallop's pep talk Monday did have an effect.
"Yes, it did, absolutely," Larentowicz said. "What he said was taken in by everybody. There's time left, however. We can't hope to hang our head on ties at the end of the year. Home games, in-conference games. We've got a lot of work ahead of us."
The Fire leads the league with 9 draws in its 15 matches, but at least the point for this tie helped the team inch out of last place in the Eastern Conference. It wasn't much consolation.
"We can't afford to tie at home," Shipp said. "We came into this game knowing that we needed to win. We kind of billed it as a game to turn our season around and get a win, to hopefully get the momentum going in the second half of the year and it didn't happen, so we've got to look toward Kansas City on Sunday."
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