The Chicago Fire may match table-topping Seattle Sounders FC in the defeats column, but they remain fourth from bottom in Major League Soccer's Supporters' Shield standings.
A record of 14 draws has been their undoing, and while some would argue that an astonishing number of stalemates point to defensive lapses, nine 1-1s and a pair of 0-0s suggest otherwise. The Fire aren't scoring enough.
Frank Yallop has a wide array of attacking talents to choose from, yet the injured Mike Magee - last term's divisional MVP - remains their chief goal-getter, tied with Quincy Amarikwa's uninspiring career-best tally of seven, as rookie Harry Shipp brings up the rear.
Missing out on the MLS Cup play-offs would be nothing new for the franchise, having done similar last time out, but at least then their strike rate stood up against eventual champions Sporting Kansas City in the regular season.
News that Magee will miss the rest of this campaign is concerning, and the captures of Robert Earnshaw and Florent Sinama-Pongolle are clearly aiming to combat the drought. Realistically though, 2014 is a write-off.
Another false dawn
The frustration for Chicago fans must be that this could so easily have been a successful year, had they turned domination into goals and learnt to retain the leads they have held. Again, this could be attributed to the back-line, but their defensive statistics wouldn't look out of place in the upper reaches of the league. Meanwhile, astonishingly, all five of their wins have been by a margin of just a single notch.
There will now be some concern that these issues will run beyond the end of October.
As has been previously mentioned, Magee, Shipp, Amarikwa, Earnshaw, Sinama-Pongolle, Sanna Nyassi and Matthew Fondy form quite an impressive forward roster. However, looking beyond the sheer quantity of options and the Fire are greatly lacking in quality.
Where do the Fire go from here?
If bowing out now means that Magee with be fit for next season, that's a bonus, while Shipp looks a real star and will only improve with more playing time. The rest, though, are a little uninspiring to say the least.
The new pair bring the promise of top-level experience, but Earnshaw's speedy start looks less remarkable when you consider that he did similar at Toronto FC before tailing away, and Sinama-Pongolle's best return was 12 goals in 2007. Likewise, approaching his 27th birthday, it appears that Amarikwa will never be a regular on the score-sheet.
Nyassi and Fondy also penned their deals earlier this summer, making a new signing in the off-season an unlikelihood.
Unfortunately, that might be exactly what Chicago need if they retain any hope of replicating the success they achieved at the turn of the century.
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