Playoffs not pipe dream for Fire
By Len Ziehm Special to Sun-Times Media September 29, 2011 9:08PM
Updated: November 11, 2011 5:52PM
After winning twice in the first 24 games the Fire’s chances of reaching the playoffs in Major League Soccer appeared dead.
But with victories in five of the last six games, the playoffs are a distinct possibility for the Fire going into Saturday’s road match against the Houston Dynamo (10-9-12). The Fire (7-8-15) has 36 standings points, three shy of the New York Red Bulls, who hold the 10th and last playoff berth.
The Fire has four games to jump into the top 10, and no match was more reflective of the gigantic improvement in the club than Wednesday night’s 3-0 victory at Real Salt Lake.
“A great win against a very good team in a very difficult place to play,’’ interim coach Frank Klopas said. “Our composure was great. We had a 3-0 lead [against New England in a 3-2 win at Toyota Park on Sunday] and gave up some late goals.’’
That didn’t happen at Salt Lake. The Fire scored in the first 20 minutes for the sixth time in the last eight matches. Marco Pappa’s three goals were more than enough to keep the Fire’s momentum going.
“Each game is a playoff for us,’’ Pappa said. “We’re still alive, and we need to get points. We know the next game is going to be hard.’’
It can’t help but be special for striker Dominic Oduro, since Houston traded him after the first game of the season. Oduro, stunned by the trade, responded by scoring 11 goals for the Fire.
Klopas is also hoping for the return of Sebastian Grazzini. The Argentine midfielder, who has four goals and four assists since coming to the Fire at midseason, didn’t play at Salt Lake because of tightness in his right hamstring.