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Thursday, August 11, 2011
Mental lapses adding to Fire's demise

By Charlie Corr

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- The Chicago Fire so often have had to quickly put the past behind them to rebound from a poor effort. But Sunday's road loss to the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps appears to have lingered just a bit more than usual.

"We just didn't come mentally prepared that day and it showed," Fire midfielder Patrick Nyarko said Wednesday following training. "It cost us big time. We had a series of meetings [this week], and the guys reminded themselves that it wasn't good enough."

Chicago is preparing for a road match against the New York Red Bulls this Saturday, and mental preparation clearly is an area where the Fire turned in a failing grade against the Whitecaps.

"The mentality at this level is the difference maker," Fire defender Logan Pause said. "You give up a goal 30 seconds in, it doesn't feel good. You're starting off with a massive hill to climb. You even it up and you do it right again. Sean [Johnson] makes a huge save on a penalty to keep us in it, and within five minutes of the second half [we give up a goal]. So it's one of those things where we kept taking punches, and I think how we fought back, or the lack of energy and commitment, was frustrating to be a part of."

Nyarko said there might have been a passive element in their preparation for Vancouver.

"I think we let their turf field get into our heads a little bit," Nyarko said. "We watched tape and guys slipping, and stuff like that. I think guys were paying more attention to the field as opposed to trying to play. The field was bad, but I hate giving excuses. We just weren't good enough that day, and mentally we weren't ready."

The bottom line is that this was no ordinary loss. The Western Conference's worst club was upbeat and energetic, while the Fire had more lapses during Sunday's match than in just about every previous game this season. What had been a fairly stable defense under interim head coach Frank Klopas gave up more goals Sunday than it had in Klopas' first seven matches at the helm after replacing Carlos de los Cobos.

"Losing is part of the game, and I can accept it and face it head-on," Pause said. "But there's an element of how you lose, and I think Sunday was a sour taste in terms of how we lost. I think we lost with no fight and no urgency, energy, commitment and attitude, which are especially things that when you're bottom-of-the-table, those have to be musts."

With the Fire sitting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with a 2-7-13 record, Pause has taken responsibility for the team's woes in his first season as Fire captain.

"I accept and wear the responsibility of being a leader on this team," Pause said. "And I feel like a big portion of letdowns are from my end in terms of leadership and trying to funnel things -- some of the key concepts and principles that we're about, and what it takes. It's been hard. It's an ongoing learning process. But I do take the responsibility of where we are and the mentality of the group, which has been struggling."

Fire sign Gulley, will be added to 2012 roster: The Fire announced Thursday that they have signed 17-year-old Clinton, Miss., native and forward Kellen Gulley as the club's second homegrown player. Bolingbrook native Victor Pineda was the team's first homegrown signing. Gulley is a homegrown player for his recent play with the Chicago Fire Juniors of Mississippi.

Gulley will not be added to the Fire's first team roster until the 2012 season.

Gulley earned eight caps with the U.S. U-17 national team, netting four goals during his 2009-2010 stretch with the squad. The Fire said Gulley will arrive in Chicago on Sunday and train with the first team on Monday.