Bridgeview, IL (SportsNetwork.com) - The Chicago Fire will look to take
another step toward a postseason berth on Saturday at Toyota Park as the club
hosts struggling Toronto FC.
With two games to play the Fire can secure a playoff spot in the Eastern
Conference with wins in both matches as the team faces Red Bull New York on
the final weekend of the season.
But first Chicago must take three points from Toronto, a team that is winless
against the Fire in its last seven matches.
After enduring the worst start in club history with a 2-7-1 mark through 10
games, the Fire has turned things around and is now in position to reach the
playoffs, which seemed unlikely a few months into the campaign.
"You never count yourself out," said midfielder Jeff Larentowicz after his
team's poor start. "Through experience you see often times it'll come down to
the last weekend. I think this year will be the same, you just have to
convince yourself that if you get three points the story is going to change
and I think it has week after week."
That positive approach has paid off for Chicago, which has won its last two
games to move into the top five in the East and into a playoff position.
A 3-0 win over D.C. United two weeks ago was a good result, but a 3-2 victory
over FC Dallas last weekend was a bigger step as the team built a three-goal
lead early in the second half before holding on for the win.
"We've had a lot of opportunities this year to put ourselves above the red
line," defender Bakary Soumare said. "Every time we've had the opportunity to
do so, we haven't gotten the job done. This is one of the first times where
we're under pressure and got it done - it was great. Then some of the other
results go our way and we control our own destiny."
The Fire could clinch a playoff berth with a win over Toronto and two other
results going the right way. But for now the team is just focused on picking
up three points and letting the rest take care of itself, as Larentowicz said.
Toronto has been eliminated from postseason contention for a while now, and
with three losses from its last four games, the team has shown no signs of a
positive finish to the current season.
TFC will be able to turn its attention to another important offseason in a few
weeks, but midfielder Bobby Convey did his best to take something positive
away from another tough campaign.
"We have some good young players here and this was a good season for them to
get games under their belts," Convey said. "Hopefully we can add more
experience for next year to make this team a lot better. I think this
offseason is extremely important because there will be cap space to add
players who really understand MLS and who are willing to play for certain
salaries and who will want to be part of TFC."
It's hard not to look to the future for Toronto after the way this season
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