The Fire made some headlines this week with the acquistions of midfielder Wells Thompson and forward Guillermo Franco before Friday's MLS Roster Freeze. They also earned three valuable road points by beating Toronto FC 2-1 on Wednesday night, at the time, taking them within three points of first in the East.
The Fire have a chance to reduce that number Saturday night against Montreal (LIVE at 7:00pm CT on CSN Chicago) but before you head out for the game, take with you 5 Things You Should Know About Tonight's game.
1) PLAYOFF UPDATE… Friday night the Fire were less than two minutes away from having the chance to play for first place in the East Saturday night but C.J. Sapong’s 93rd minute header kept Sporting KC from a near meltdown in a 1-1 home draw with Houston.
WATCH: Matko on Montreal
With the result, the Fire remain second in the East, just four points behind Sporting KC with a game in hand. While the team can’t take first place, this is still a “make up ground” weekend with Sporting KC leaving two points on that floor at LiveSTRONG.
With New York hosting Columbus earlier Saturday, the Fire could momentarily drop to third in the East. Plain and simple though, a win against Montreal tonight will put the Men in Red within one point of first with six matches to play and one each against both Sporting and Red Bull.
2) 200 GOING ONCE… If I haven’t already beaten you over the head with it in the last week, it’s important to note that the moment Gonzalo Segares steps on the field Saturday night, he’ll become just the eighth player in Fire history to earn 200 competitive appearances for the club.
INTERESTING TWIST: The appearance will come against the Montreal Impact, led by former Fire midfielder Jesse Marsch, who appeared in exactly 200 regular season matches for the club from 1998-2005.
While Marsch still sits comfortably in sixth on the all competitions appearance list at 259, Segares could potentially catch seventh place Justin Mapp (208) before the end of the year…
3) 200 GOING TWICE… Don’t worry, the number is only the theme for roughly 40 percent of today’s Five Things but I promise this one is worth it.
A Fire win Saturday night will not only move Frank Klopas’ side within one point of first place in the Eastern Conference but it will also mark the club’s 200th all-time regular season win. Just for reference, the Fire are currently 199-154-103 in 456 MLS matches since 1998.
4) MONTREAL FIRST… Saturday night marks the expansion Impact’s first-ever visit to Toyota Park. History bodes reasonably well for the Fire when welcoming an MLS expansion team to their home venue for the first time, going 4-1-4 all-time in those instances. The only loss came just last season as the Fire fell victim to a Jack Jewsbury penalty kick in a 1-0 defeat on July 16.
WATCH: Fire 3, Dynamo 1 (9/2/2012)
5) MORE CONFIDENCE… We all agree the Fire need three points tonight and if Montreal is going to become just the third expansion team in league history to make the playoffs, they can drop few points from their remaining five matches. "Backs against the wall" soccer often produces results (see 2011 Fire) so Saturday’s game will be very tough.
BUT! There are three important things to take into account…
- Montreal has been a horrible away team this season, going 2-11-1 (seven points of their 39) away from Quebec. Only New England (1-10-2) has been worse amongst Eastern Conference sides.
- The Fire have remained unbeaten at home against Eastern Conference foes for nearly two years, going 11-0-5 since last falling 2-0 to the Kansas Wizards on October 12, 2010.
- Lastly, the Men in Red are 10-0-1 in their last 11 matches against East opposition at Toyota Park. The only draw came in the weather-shortened, 1-1 draw with Houston on April 15 that was shortened to only 66 minutes because of severe weather.
At the very least, there is confidence in numbers. There should be all around though, as the Fire have found different ways to win over their 14 victories this season. I see no reason win number 15 won’t come Saturday night.
Prediction: Fire 2, Impact 1. Goals from Rolfe and Oduro.