Play with Fire, you get burned.

CF Montréal’s downward spiral leading into the MLS midseason break not only continued but worsened on Wednesday night as they were torched 3-0 by the Chicago Fire, who began the day below them in the standings.

No MLS side has lost more games this season than CFM’s 12 defeats from 22 games. The beating in Chi-town means Hernán Losada’s side have now lost three league games on the spin for the third time this season.

Sometimes, you get your ass handed to you. In terms of the scoreline, at least, that was about the size of it on Wednesday. Rain in the Chicago area delayed kick-off at Soldier Field for an hour and 20 minutes and after all that waiting, and even without their former striker and 2023 All-Star Kei Kamara on the field, CFM were 2-0 down after 11 minutes.

Kamara, who demanded a trade from CFM in pre-season, has been scoring goals for fun in a Chicago shirt, racking up five so far in 2023, two more than any Montréal player has managed. But head coach Frank Klopas opted to start the 38-year-old on the bench; maybe there was a little more fire in the belly of the Fire frontman for this match than Klopas wanted to risk?

Anyway, Chicago didn’t need him.

Xherdan Shaqiri, who until Lionel Messi arrives is the league’s highest-paid player, and Maren Haile-Selassie each collected a goal and an assist to lift the hosts to the win. Brian Gutiérrez got the other, the ninth-minute opener which ignited the Fire. Shaqiri’s goal, the third of the night, was an absolute howitzer of a strike.

Had James Pantemis also been in goal alongside Jonathan Sirois, it still would have gone in.

Throw in a missed penalty for Montréal, when offseason acquisition Ariel Lassiter hit the post, and pretty much everything went wrong in an atrocious first half. “The worst part about tonight is losing the game in the first 10 minutes,” Losada said post-game. “It’s difficult to understand and the mistakes we made tonight are hard to accept.”

CFM did rally in the second period, forcing numerous saves from Chicago’s homegrown goalkeeper Chris Brady, but to no avail.

It was certainly one of those nights on which you have to look for whatever positives you can take. Captain Samuel Piette’s return to action was the biggest plus point, the 28-year-old stepping onto a matchday pitch for CFM for the first time since April 1, more than three months ago. “Despite the result, tonight felt like a win for me,” said Piette post-game.

But Montréal’s turnaround in form has been alarming. It seems a long time ago that they had recorded six consecutive clean sheets at home. Since then, they have nee shut out themselves in four games in a row and have just one point from 12. Their last goal was Bryce Duke’s first-half winner against Nashville on June 21.

“It’s frustrating,” said defender Joel Waterman post-game. “They had five shots and capitalized on three. They took care of their chances, and we as a team need to find ways to get the ball into the back of the net.”

CF Montréal will be back in action on Saturday when they will host Charlotte FC at Saputo Stadium.

“Now, there is another game in two days. We will take these lessons, we need to improve, and we need to stick together to prepare for a crucial game Saturday night,” said Losada.

Many fans will call Saturday a must-win game given the team’s form and the fact it is their last MLS match before the month layoff in league play begins to make way for the Leagues Cup. Montréal do not want to be going into that long break on a five-game winless run.