Playoff implications spice Fire’s final home game
BY PATRICK Z. MCGAVIN For Sun-Times Media October 18, 2013 11:32PM
Led by Mike Magee, the Fire carries a two-game winning streak into a key match against Toronto FC. The Fire then will finish the regular season on the road against the Red Bulls. | AP
Updated: November 20, 2013 6:11AM
The Fire just did a collective exhale.
By stitching together its first two-game winning streak since early August with road victories against D.C. United and FC Dallas, the Fire made the leap from eighth place to fourth in the Eastern Conference standings.
As the team prepares for its final home game Saturday night against Toronto FC, the stakes have never been so clear.
The Fire (13-12-7, 46 points) holds the tiebreaker for fourth place. Like the whole season, it is a precarious and constantly shifting state of affairs. The Montreal Impact and Philadelphia Union have the same point total, and the New England Revolution lags a point behind.
“For the last two months, we’ve been hovering right around that red line,” star forward Mike Magee said. “We’ve put ourselves into a position with two matches left in the season that we control our own destiny.”
The Fire could clinch a playoff berth by beating Toronto FC, combined with a victory by the Impact over the Union and the Columbus Crew beating or playing to a draw with the Revolution.
The Fire played Toronto FC (5-16-11) to a disappointing 1-1 draw a month ago in Canada. This game carries larger implications because of the Fire’s exceptionally difficult season-ending match, a road game against the league-leading New York Red Bulls next Sunday.
Magee scored his 19th goal (his 13th since joining the Fire in late May) and recorded an assist as the Fire broke out to a 3-0 lead before holding on for a 3-2 victory over FC Dallas. Magee and Impact star Marco Di Vaio are tied for the Golden Boot award, given to the leading scorer in MLS during the regular season.
According to coach Frank Klopas, having such an elite scorer to elevate a team is crucial at this point of the season. “We were having problems scoring when we got him and now we’re playing for something,” Klopas said. “It’s a really good time to be playing well.”
The rangy Juan Luis Anangono continued his recent hot play by scoring the first goal against Dallas. The team has other reinforcements ready to go. Fire keeper Sean Johnson was called up to the US World Cup qualifier against Panama on Wednesday, but he is back, as are crucial midfielders Joel Lindpere and Arévalo Ríos.
The team’s confidence has soared.
“We have always believed in ourselves,” Magee said.