Simply put, this just isn’t good enough.
For the third time in September the Fire surrendered a goal late and lost out on some much-needed standings points in the battle for an Eastern Conference playoff berth in Major League Soccer.
Allowing goals in the 89th minute led to the Fire losing 2-1 at Seattle and settling for a draw against Houston. On Saturday the untimely goal came in the 87th minute, and it was perhaps more painful than the others. Maxim Tissot, a reserve defender for the Montreal Impact, scored his first goal of the season to give his club a 2-2 with the Fire at Toyota Park.
This one dropped the Fire (11-12-7) down to seventh place in the Eastern Conference with four games remaining. Only one is in Bridgeview, though, and the Fire has been a bad road team (2-8-4). That’s why Saturday’s opportunity before a crowd of 18,173 was so important.
Even with these late lapses the Fire could still return to postseason play, but it won’t be easy. The Philadelphia Union defeated Sporting Kansas City 1-1 on Friday to move into the fifth and last playoff spot in the East with 42 points in 30 matches.
The sixth-place New England Revolution settled for a 1-1 draw with fourth-place Houston. New England has 41 points in the 30 matches and the Fire has 40 in the same number of games and could be down to eighth place on Sunday if the Columbus Crew, with 38 points in 30 matches, defeats FC Dallas.
"Every point that we drop we can’t get back," said Fire coach Frank Klopas. "It’s an opportunity to be in the final (playoff) spot. The energy was there. We deserved to win, but it doesn’t always work out."
Bakary Soumare’s second red card suspension didn’t help the Fire on Saturday. The Fire gave up the first goal, to Montreal’s Marco Di Vaio in the 25th minute. Klopas ignited his team with two substitutions at halftime, Alex replacing captain Logan Pause and Chris Rolfe taking Dilly Duka’s spot.
Mike Magee scored in the 57th and 73rd minutes to put the Fire in front and had a penalty kick to make it a 3-1 game in the 78th. His shot, though, banged off the crossbar, setting the stage for Tissot to tie the game. His chance came when Jeff Larentowicz’ clearing pass in the penalty box deflected off teammate Jalil Anibaba. Tissot headed in the loose ball.
The missed PK kept Magee from tying Di Vaio for the lead in the Golden Boot race. Di Vaio has 19 goals and Magee 18.
In the last six matches the Fire has won just once. The next chances comes Saturday on the road, against D.C. United (3-21-6) – the worst team in MLS. Still, United handed the Fire a painful loss earlier this season, a 2-0 upset in the semifinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in Bridgeview.