Two-thirds of the Chicago Fire's matches this season have resulted in a draw. So it almost comes without surprise that Chicago netted its fourth straight stalemate against Chivas USA on Saturday at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
Perhaps the only variations that the Fire are putting together this year are the types of the draws -- lost leads such as Saturday, a comeback such as the New York Red Bulls, or a scoreless draw, which has occurred on four occasions.
The Fire's 12th draw puts them two shy of tying FC Dallas' record mark of 14. If Chicago (2-4-12) had some victories to show for its efforts, the tone of this pattern might be different. As it stands, though, the draws are a continual sign of mediocrity on the scoreboard and in the Eastern Conference standings.
"Eight games without a defeat, but at the same time we're not winning," Fire forward Dominic Oduro said. "That's something that we have to flip over and try to win games. We're doing well, we're creating chances. But at the same time we have to finish our games."
Oduro gave Chicago a 1-0 lead in the 26th minute, posting his fifth goal of the season to tie for the team lead with Marco Pappa. Oduro received the ball from Patrick Nyarko with only a slight step against Chivas defender Michael Umana. But Oduro kicked his run into a higher gear to get past Umana on the left side, then shot at a difficult angle to hit the inside of the right-side netting past Chivas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy.
Oduro and the Fire attacked with regularity in the opening half -- a positive sign while on the road.
But Chicago's first-half efforts quickly were taken away when Chivas' Nick LaBrocca tied the score at 1-1 in the 47th minute. LaBrocca's left-footed strike went above Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson's reach, clipped the bottom of the crossbar and went into the net. LaBrocca's shot was strong, though the Fire could have handled the setup better. Michael Lahoud got around Fire midfielder Patrick Nyarko to create LaBrocca's chance.
"I felt that the game should have been won in the first half," Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas said. "The second half was a different game. We came out, we gave up the fast goal. We didn't start quick enough."
Chivas could have done some further damage in the second half. Victor Estupinan had some close calls in the final 15 minutes, colliding with Johnson in the 78th minute, then forcing Johnson to dive to his right for a save in the 90th minute.
The Fire's best defensive play came from Johnson in the 32nd minute, when he stuffed Jorge Flores' shot attempt. Johnson stepped up way off of his line, lunged at Flores and reacted to the shot to his left, simultaneously securing the ball.
Analysis: One point. One point. One point. One point. ... The Fire's mundane pattern has the feel of Andy Dufresne slowly digging his way out of prison in The Shawshank Redemption. But Dufresne eventually escaped. Will the Fire break out of this cycle?
Chicago created some good looks early on, but Oduro's hot start did not carry over into the second half on Saturday.
There should also be some concern over the fact that some Fire players showed a lack of involvement on the pitch. Forward Diego Chaves hardly touched the ball, and for a supposed goal scorer, that has to change dramatically. Midfielder Marco Pappa also lacked a presence out there. And defensive midfielder Logan Pause, who came back from his concussion injury, was not involved enough as a link between the defense and offense.
This club continually is screaming for an improved midfield presence -- a topic that has been around since the offseason.
What looked like a promising start Saturday turned into an attempt to hang on for a road point. Adding a meager point here and there without some victories is only delaying the inevitable -- that the Fire would come up short of a postseason berth.