With the Chicago Fire floundering with a 2-7-2 record upon his arrival, Mike Magee was asked whether his new club had a realistic shot of qualifying for the playoffs.
“Of course,” said Magee, who had already studied the Eastern Conference standings. “We're trying to catch Philly, who happen to be 10 points ahead of us and we have two games in hand. We've got to start getting some points … We'll get it right.”
They did get it right, going 8-3-2 over the next two months.
And despite some bumps in the road, Chicago is squarely back in the mix for a playoff spot. They'll have a chance to finally jump into fifth place with a win in Toronto on Wednesday, which would put them one point behind fourth-place Philadelphia with a game-in-hand.
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“It will be good for us, it'll be good for everybody, to finally be in the top five,” Bakary Soumare told MLSsoccer.com. “It'll be very good, and it'll give us a little more motivation … You get a win on Wednesday, and it makes Saturday's game [against fifth-place New England] massive. It's a six-point swing.”
After returning home from a second-straight disappointing result, in which an 89th minute own goal was the decider in a 2-1 loss to Seattle, the team turned intently to the weekend's Eastern Conference games.
The team's collective mood quickly turned around as they saw New England, Houston and Philadelphia all lose.
“I think as soon as the game ended in Seattle, we started checking the standings and the results,” Magee said. “We literally were telling each other that we're due for a couple of results to go our way. It was perfect … didn't even play Sunday and I thought it was the best day we've had all year. It's exciting. We've let a couple of opportunities pass, but we're right back to get a spot in the top five spot, so it was massive.”
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On Wednesday, the Fire could be without Magee, the league's second leading scorer, who went down with a groin injury on Saturday. But with a win against Eastern Conference's second-worst team, Chicago could arrive at the point Magee always thought they'd have the potential to reach.
“We're right here,” coach Frank Klopas told MLSsoccer.com. “This is the game-in-hand for us and it's still in our hands. We're two points away.”