Crazy MLS: Despite slow start to 2013, positive outlook, league parity have put Fire in playoff position
CHICAGO, Ill. -- Major League Soccer and its parity can make things interesting. They can also straight up baffle you.
The Chicago Fire began the season with the worst start in club history, going 2-7-1 through 10 games, only now to be one of the hottest teams in MLS and potentially clinching a playoff berth with a week left to play.
This all comes after the Fire dropped what at the seemed like a devastating two points in a 2-2 home draw vs. a reeling Montreal side back on September 28.
“…I’m not giving up on this season,” said Patrick Nyarko following that result. “This team has a lot of character to dig itself out of holes and there are still four games to go and we still have a shot.”
Many a fan and pundit clearly disagreed with Nyarko’s assessment with the draw, which felt more like a defeat, putting the proverbial final nail in the coffin for the club’s 2013 playoff hopes.
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Two weeks later, the Fire stare playoff qualification straight in the face following two straight away wins 3-0 at D.C. United and 3-2 at FC Dallas.
“We’ve had a lot of opportunities this year to put ourselves above the red line,” Bakary Soumare told Chicago-Fire.com Tuesday. “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.”
How crazy can MLS be?
Take out even the Fire perspective and look at that same Montreal side. Eastern Conference leaders almost every week through September 14, Montreal has picked up just one point in their last five (the draw vs. the Fire) and on current form, are a popular choice for an Eastern Conference team that could drop below the red line to end the season.
“With the parity of the league it’s going to be tight like this all the time. The quality of every team is getting better and I think anything can happen to the end. We had a down part at the start of our season and are now doing well. Montreal has been having tough results lately. Columbus has stayed in the race here late in the season – it’s made things interesting.”
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If Montreal can sort themselves out, they still sit in a decent position to qualify for the playoffs but a midweek cross-continent trip to LA and a crucial six-pointer at home vs. Philadelphia on Saturday has put the once East table-toppers in quite a precarious position.
For the Fire, finding themselves controlling their own destiny has been a result of staying positive through the good and bad times this season according to Jeff Larentowicz.
“You never count yourself out,” said the Fire vice captain. "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.”
Notes from Tuesday’s training
- After a day off Monday, the team trained at UIC’s practice field Tuesday as a Eid prayer service was scheduled at Toyota Park.
- Held out of training with calf tendinitis ahead of Saturday's win at FC Dallas, Mike Magee trained in full with the team Tuesday, as did wingers Dilly Duka and Patrick Nyarko who left Saturday’s 3-2 win as injury precautions.