Three consecutive road games culminated with a third straight loss. A 3-0 defeat at the hands of the Columbus Crew, in which the Fire never really threatened the ninth place team in the Eastern Conference, leaves them with the exact same point total that they had after 31 games in 2015.
At this point in the season last year, Frank Yallop had been dismissed as the Fire were on their way to the worst campaign in club history. Through 31 games in 2015 a 7-18-6 record and 27 points was good enough for the bottom of the table. This year, a 6-16-9 record leaves them with 27 points and at the bottom of MLS again.
The Fire looked like a team going through the motions and riding out the string in Columbus. They managed 5 shot attempts and only one was on frame throughout the entire match. They offered little resistance defensively on the Crew's three goals. At one point in the season, defense was the one thing that could be relied upon to at least keep Chicago in matches. Not so much any more.
"We are aware of the issues we have this season and we have to fix it," said Veljko Paunovic following the match. "I think the game reflects exactly how this team feels right now, which is very fragile. Very easily we concede goals, but that has been the whole season. This game was pretty much the same."
Last year's version of the Fire tied for a league worst 58 goals allowed and an MLS bottom -15 goal differential. This year's team has allowed 52 goals while suffering through a league worst -16 differential. Only Orlando City and New York City FC have allowed more goals than Chicago.
Scoring is still difficult but that has been a problem all season due largely to a lack of creativity from midfield. "What I like about the team is we tried until the end to score at least one goal. We weren't even close , but at least that's the mentality we have to look for. On the other side, I think the effort was also huge for us, but we have to do much better, we have to improve, we have to work ahead for the next season," said Paunovic.
The Fire have made massive changes from last year but have followed up the two worst seasons in club history with a third disaster of at least equal proportions.
GK Sean Johnson (4.5) - Afful's shot appeared to knuckle but one can't help but think that Johnson could have done better to knock it away. Goalkeepers are sitting ducks with the type of defense on display for much of this game however.
D Johan Kappelhof (4.5) - The bad defensive bug that has infested this team seems to be spreading to Kappelhof, who has for the most part been very good this season. Columbus killed the Fire on the flanks. The second Crew goal came as a result of Campbell being pulled out of position to cover for Kappelhof, who wasn't in position.
D Jonathan Campbell (4.5) - As the season winds down, defenders who looked impressive early on now seem to be struggling.
D Joao Meira (5) - Meira has been the Fire's best defender over the last month. Let that soak in. Led all players with 13 clearances.
D Brandon Vincent (4) - Provided a good ball into the box in the 33rd but was torched on the Fire's left side throughout the entire match. Failed to close on Afful on the first goal.
M John Goossens (4.5) - The curious decision to pair Goossens with Thiam in central midfield doesn't make it hard to see why the Fire were so ineffective with the ball despite decent possession and pass completion numbers. Goossens completed 18 of his 26 passes although the Fire as a team were at 80%. He registered the only shot on goal with a long attempt in the 49th minute.
M Khaly Thiam (4.5) - Completed 39 of 47 but only two of those led to anything of consequence. A good tackle and cross in the 42nd found no one near the far post and a through ball to Ramos in the 77th resulted in something of an attack. Beaten by Meram on the second goal.
M Luis Solignac (4) - Had one chance in the 26th and missed another clear look at goal....badly. The spark that he provided the offense upon his arrival seems to have dimmed.
M Michael de Leeuw (4.5) - Needs to assert his influence more on the field if he's going to be shoe-horned into the "playmaker" role underneath. "Today they killed us. They were better on every part of the field. Everything has to be better," said de Leeuw after the match.
M David Accam (4) - As the Fire's lone current DP, Accam has been too easy to mark out of games recently. If he's going to deserve the big raise he's looking for in order to extend his stay past 2017, he needs to do better than 10 pass attempts and 1 shot attempt in 74 minutes. There was also the "defending" on Afful's goal to consider.
F David Arshakyan (4) - Still hasn't shown any where near the form that made him so dangerous with his former club. Service isn't there but he hasn't really shown on set pieces either.
M Matt Polster (5) - Midfield appeared to be somewhat more organized upon his insertion for Goossens in the 63rd but it was already 3-0 at that point.
M Arturo Alvarez (4.5) - Completed 4 of 11 passes after coming on for Arshakyan in the 63rd. Participated in a good deal of "whatevering" in the final 30 minutes. One shot attempt in the 91st.
D Rodrigo Ramos (4.5) - Replaced Accam in the 74th. Involved in a combination with Thiam in the 77th and picked up an yellow card in the 88th.