Conditions good for Fire to gain playoff ground
BY PATRICK Z. McGAVIN For Sun-Times Media August 31, 2013 12:56AM
DYNAMO AT FIRE
The facts: 2 p.m., Ch. 50.
Updated: October 2, 2013 6:32AM
At the start of the summer, a Fire team decimated by early-season injuries stood at 2-7-2.
The trade with the Los Angeles Galaxy in late May that brought forward Mike Magee back to his native Chicago changed everything.
Magee’s eight goals with the Fire have been key to the counterpunch, with the Fire on an 8-3-2 push and edging closer to its goal of securing the last playoff seed in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference.
“We’ve been looking at that fifth spot,’’ Magee said.
With the Houston Dynamo coming to Toyota Park for a crucial game Sunday afternoon, the Fire can chart its own destiny. The Dynamo and New England Revolution are tied for fifth in the East at 36 points. The Fire (10-10-4) trails by two.
Three of the Fire’s next four games are on the road, where the team has struggled at 2-6-3, compared to its 8-4-1 record at home — second-best in the conference. After Sunday, the Fire plays at home only three times in its last nine games.
Complicating matters, two key players will be unavailable going forward. The Fire announced Thursday that Estonian midfielder Joel Lindpere and recent Uruguayan acquisition Egidio Arevalo Rios have been called up by their national teams to play in World Cup qualifiers and are expected to miss road games at Seattle and Toronto.
Lindpere’s six assists lead the team. Rios’ athleticism, speed and tenacious defensive skills proved crucial in an impressive 1-0 shutout of East leader Sporting Kansas City on Aug. 23.
The Dynamo, which beat the Fire 2-1 on April 14, is coming off its worst performance of the year, a 5-0 loss to the Montreal Impact.
‘‘You don’t want to catch them after a result that bad,’’ Magee said.
Defensively, the Fire must account for forward Will Bruin, who leads the Dynamo in goals (six) and assists (six).
Bruin and Brad Davis scored the goals in the Dynamo’s April victory. Midfielder Giles Barnes also has six goals.
‘‘Every game is crucial,’’ Fire midfielder Patrick Nyarko said. ‘‘We’re not looking at the standings. We’re focused on doing the job.’’