At some point Chicago Fire coach Veljko Paunovic is going to run out of ways to describe his team's disappointing results.
"It's painful," Paunovic said after the Fire gave up an 82nd-minute goal Saturday night and had to settle for a 1-1 draw against visiting New England.
The Fire gifted New England its goal courtesy of a couple of mistakes on one play by goalkeeper Richard Sanchez. The 24-year-old regained his starting spot when Patrick McLain was injured last week.
Protecting a 1-0 lead courtesy of a Bastian Schweinsteiger goal in the 63rd minute, Sanchez seemed to miscommunicate with his defenders, letting the ball drop in front of him in the penalty area.
The ball took a bad bounce over his head, but Sanchez nearly corralled it near the goal line to the side of his net with New England's Diego Fagundez challenging him for the ball. It popped loose and bounced back toward Revolution forward Teal Bunbury, who quickly punished the Fire for the mistake.
"The majority of the time we controlled the game," Paunovic said. " … Huge performance from the team. It hurts a lot when you obviously drop 2 points this way. But it happens, and that's part of the game. We'll keep learning from our mistakes, and I hope we'll get to the point that we will learn from others' mistakes."
McLain is expected to be out another 3-4 weeks with a hamstring strain.
The Fire (5-7-3, 18 points) moved into a tie with Philadelphia for seventh place in the Eastern Conference with the point. A victory would have put the Fire ahead of sixth-place Orlando City SC, above the playoff line.
The team remains under the .500 mark at home, now 3-4-2.
"We still have to grow. We're still young. And we'll get better. It's a process," said Paunovic, who last week threatened to release some players after his team nearly gave away 3 points against San Jose. The Fire held on for a 2-1 win.
"I think that's solved, and today I'm so happy with the guys. The goal we conceded was tough to swallow, but definitely the guys fought back," Paunovic said. "Everyone was just frustrated in that moment, but we still tried to get back and win the game."
Toyota Park was much more quiet than usual because of a dispute between the club and its independent supporters organizations.
The club revoked the tickets of supporters in one organization, and other supporters boycotted the game in support, leaving the loudest sections in the stands less filled than usual or vacant. A crowd of 14,415 was announced, though it again looked far less than the announced figure.