If the Chicago Fire want to make it back to the SuperLiga final, it will have some ground to make up after losing to Morelia, 5-1, at Toyota Park Wednesday night.
"Today it looked like everybody was dead," Fire defender C.J. Brown said. "We couldn't hold the ball, defensively we couldn't mark people, read the game very well."
The Fire came out with a thin lineup, with two rookies starting on the back line, and it showed early.
Morelia took the lead in the third minute when Elias Hernandez took advantage of a scramble in the box, controlling the ball after a Krystoff Krol whiff and slotting it past Fire goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra.
Defensive miscues quickly became a theme for the Fire.
The next two Morelia goals came off of crosses, both of which beat goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra, leaving goalscorers Luis Gabriel Rey and Miguel Sabah wide open in front of the goal for tap-ins to make it 3-0 at halftime.
Steve Kinney gave the Fire hope in the 49th minute when he scored off of a Justin Mapp pass, but Morelia scored just a minute later on a driven shot from just outside the box by Rafael Marquez Lugo.
The Fire controlled possession for much of the second half, but couldn't get any closer, and Morelia sealed the game in the 70th minute on a goal by Jaime Lozano, which also came off a cross.
"I don’t think the five goals fully reflects the way the Fire played, because they played good in the second half and adjusted well to the game," Morelia head coach Tomas Boy said. "They are also in the middle of their season which may have affected them.”
Morelia, who played their full team, took advantage of the thin Fire lineup, who were without eight injured players and only had five players on the bench.
Still, only five days ago, with virtually the same lineup, two shots hitting the post were all that kept the Fire from gaining a result against defending MLS champion Real Salt Lake.
"I don't know why there was a difference," said an animated Brown. "That's what we've been saying, why is there a difference. Why this, why that? Are we fixing it here, are we fixing it there? We're not fixing anything, we're getting killed."
Brown, one of only two Fire players to talk to the media, blamed the loss on his team's defensive miscues. De los Cobos, while admitting to his team's poor play, chalked up the loss to the Fire's injuries and Morelia's quality.
"It's the worst game I've had since I joined the Chicago Fire," de Los Cobos said. "But there's one factor that I want to point out. We faced a strong team, one of the strongest team in the last seasons in … That performance stopped us from showing our game."
Shortly after the third Morelia goal, Kwame Watson-Siriboe was substituted for Deris Umanzor.
While the goalscorer was unmarked, Brown didn't blame any of the goals on Watson-Siriboe.
"I don't think Kwame made mistakes on those plays," Brown said. "(De los Cobos) could have taken me out, he could have taken anyone on the defensive back line out. You can throw it in the air, and whoever falls first, you can take them out in this game. There was nobody that had a good game. You can't put that on Kwame. He's learning the hard way. This year is the hard way."
Once again, Wilman Conde started in defensive midfield, but moved to defense in the second half.
Tim Ward also made his first appearance since May 8 after recovering from a calf injury.
Manchester United held a training session a few hours before the game at Toyota Park.
Sir Alex Ferguson is happy with his team's stay in the Chicago-area and was bullish while discussing the state of American soccer after the practice.
"It's fantastic. The facilities are brilliant," he said of Toyota Park. "I must say, we've spent a lot of time over here, and each time, I've seen improvement … in American soccer. MLS is improving itself now. The form of the national team helps. I think that gives the country a boost. I think that helps the younger people in the states."
A few thousand fans showed up in the 90-degree heat and were rewarded with autographs afterward.
"We enjoy coming here. The weather and the climate is good, the facilities are good. It's safe. We're very comfortable," Ferguson said. "There are so many million kids playing. The MLS has got to, now, shelter itself so they can help these kids eventually get into the MLS."