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Fire in dire need of finishing kick

Chicago Fire v HoustDynamo

Chicago Fire v Houston Dynamo

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Updated: November 16, 2011 12:36PM

After the Fire played its most recent Major League Soccer game Oct. 1, a playoff berth didn’t seem out of the question. The team was on a 5-1-2 run and was only three points behind the New York Red Bulls, who held the last of the 10 playoff berths.

Now, though, the Fire’s chances of making it to postseason play don’t look so promising heading into the final three games of the regular season. The first of those games is Wednesday, when the Fire (7-8-16) hosts FC Dallas
(13-11-7) at Toyota Park.

Other teams have picked up points since the Fire last played an MLS game, and now the team finds itself six points behind the Red Bulls and Houston Dynamo, who hold the last two playoff berths.

‘‘The next three games will
determine our season,’’ Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson said. ‘‘We’ll be coming in with the attitude that we’ve got to get three points [for a victory]. That’s crucial. We can’t afford anything less.’’

Even winning out might not be enough to get the Fire into postseason play, but the team at least has a chance to salvage its MLS season after enduring an emotional 2-0 loss to the Seattle Sounders in the U.S. Open Cup final last Tuesday.

‘‘All of us have gotten past that [loss],’’ Johnson said. ‘‘You have to get away from those pretty quickly. You can’t have any distractions.’’

A bigger problem against FC Dallas might be the absence of midfielder Marco Pappa, who scored three goals in the Fire’s 3-2 victory Sept. 28 at Real Salt Lake. He was named MLS player of the week for that performance, but he hasn’t been with the Fire since the Open Cup loss.

A mainstay for Guatemala, Pappa reported for national-team duty after the loss to the Sounders and was expected to play for his country Tuesday against Belize. Though he is scheduled to return Wednesday to Chicago, he isn’t
expected to be available against FC Dallas.

But midfielder Sebastian Grazzini, who has been limited by a hamstring injury in the last two games, returned to training and is expected to be back in the lineup.

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