A point or a goal.
At many different times this season, getting one of either would have ended up pushing the Fire into at least third place and avoid having to play in Wednesday’s one-off knockout match vs. Houston.
It would have been as easy as turning early season losses at Portland or New England into draws, holding out a few more seconds at San Jose in July or even taking one point in October’s home stretch.
Highlights: Fire 1, DC 1
]It didn’t happen though and so despite tying the club record for most wins (17) and points in a season (57) in the post-shootout era, the Fire find themselves victim to a strong Eastern Conference and an uptick in total wins around the league (244 in 2012 to 200 in 2011).
“The [knockout game] was one thing that we tried to avoid,” said Fire captain Logan Pause Sunday. “We wanted to be the highest seed possible but you can’t go back and change any of those results. You have to learn from it and move on.
“The good thing is we’re hosting on Wednesday night. This is a great opportunity still for us, the club and our fans and hopefully we can get a good crowd behind us.”
Pause joins Chris Rolfe, Gonzalo Segares and Patrick Nyarko as the four players on the roster that have represented the Fire in the postseason. Alvaro Fernandez, Dan Gargan, Wells Thompson and Dominic Oduro have appeared in the MLS Cup playoff matches for other teams.
A veteran that took part in the club’s run to the 2003 MLS Cup final, the Fire captain has already begun talking to the younger players about the difference between post and regular season play.
“The main things we focus on and what I try to talk to the young guys about is everything ismagnified. The details are that much more important. Every play, every tackle, every shot – things just tighten up. In this situation especially, it’s one game where you’re moving on or you’re done.”
Having begun training camp in the third week of January and played a long 34-game schedule, there would certainly be reason for players to feel tired on the cusp of November. The captain said though there’s no lack of motivation as the team returns to the playoffs after a two-year absence.
“I don’t think there’s any need for extra inspiration. This is why we do what we do -- to win championships. It feels good to be put in a position and have an opportunity again after the last two years. The guys and the team only have their sights on Wednesday.”
Despite the fact that the Fire won the season series with the Dynamo with a 1-0-2 record, it seems somewhat fitting that the two teams will meet a fourth time after their first encounter back on April 15 was shortened to 66 minutes due to severe weather around Toyota Park.
Whoever comes away from Wednesday’s match will have no easy task as they’ll have to turn around and host Sporting KC in the first leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals Sunday at 2:30pm.