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Fire knows playoff implications vs. conference-foe Dynamo

Fire striker Chris Rolfe knows whit’s like fall short playoff chase. | Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Fire striker Chris Rolfe knows what it’s like to fall short in a playoff chase. | Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

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Updated: August 28, 2013 6:17AM

When the Fire was off to the worst start in franchise history earlier this season, there wasn’t a player on the roster who showed even a semblance of panic.

But leading up to the Fire’s game Saturday night at Houston, every player and coach is well aware of the impact the game will have on the Major League Soccer playoff picture. The Dynamo holds the fifth and final spot in the Eastern Conference, five points ahead of the Fire.

‘‘The way we started the season and how the season progressed, getting into the end of July and the beginning of August, it’s time to really turn it up,’’ striker Chris Rolfe said. ‘‘The games are starting to really count for a lot more, and the games get more competitive across the board.’’

No team is more attuned to the perils of the last three months of the season than the Fire. It looked to be in control of its playoff destiny at this time last season, still vying for the top spot in the conference. But the Fire fell to fourth and was forced into a play-in game, which it lost.

This week, the Fire added Ecuadorian striker Juan Luis Anangonó. Though the move is expected to pay its greatest dividends in future seasons, the 24-year-old Anangonó still provides additional offense the Fire will need down the stretch.

Last season’s demise was caused in large part by a lack of offense. Anangonó has good size, the ability to get behind defenders and can hold the ball up top when needed. That could make him a useful substitute.

‘‘You go through that period where you go through a slide,’’ midfielder Patrick Nyarko said. ‘‘So the more points you can get, the better. Right now is the point in history where most teams have gained ground or fall off.’’

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