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Fire’s game against Montreal has huge playoff Impact

As seaswinds down Dilly DukFire are outside playoff picture looking in. | Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

As the season winds down, Dilly Duka and the Fire are on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. | Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

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Updated: October 29, 2013 6:15AM

The excitement burned bright and vanished quickly.

On Sept. 14, the collective mood of the Fire was buoyant after a riveting comeback victory over the New England Revolution that thrust the team into a top-five position in the Eastern Conference standings.

But then came the most deflating loss of the year, a 3-0 whitewash against the Columbus Crew. This came after the Fire had defeated the Crew in its three previous meetings this year.

“We hit the posts, we hit the crossbar, we [had] opportunities [though] overall we were just not good enough,” midfielder and team captain Jeff Larentowicz said.

The Fire played short-handed for the final 61 minutes after defender Bakary Soumare was issued a red card.

“We’ve just got to regroup and move on,” said coach Frank Klopas, who has preached stability and patience much of the year, helping the team overcome a disastrous start.

But the math gets more challenging as the season winds down.

With one month to play, the Fire (11-12-6, 39 points) trails New England by a point for the final playoff slot. The team has little breathing space on either side. Philadelphia is tied with the Fire and the Crew is just one point behind.

Now the Fire faces a virtual must-win Saturday night against the Montreal Impact, a team it beat 2-1 Aug. 10 at Toyota Park on first-half goals by Joel Lindpere and Dilly Duka.

The Fire caught a break in that game as Marco Di Vaio, the 37-year-old Italian-born marvel who leads the league with 18 goals, played sparingly.

The third-place Impact (13-9-6,
45 points) is playing its third game in eight days and is coming off a Champions League match Tuesday night.

Still, the onus is clearly on the Fire. Just two of the team’s final five games are at home and the Fire has not won on the road since beating Philadelphia 2-1 on Aug. 3rd.

“We have been in this spot before,” Larentowicz said. “We have games to play and there is going to be more opportunities.”

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