It’s a HUGE game day in Chicago as the Fire find themselves with a chance to clinch what was once an unthinkable playoff berth Saturday night vs. Toronto FC (LIVE 7pm CT on My50/Time Warner Sports Wisconsin).
Here are five things you should know about the match…
Playoff Scenarios – How do the Fire get in again?
A point here, a point there and maybe you don’t need to depend on other teams to clinch tonight but that’s the way the Fire find themselves.
So, the lowdown for the Fire to clinch vs. Toronto FC:
- Homestanding Montreal must beat Philadelphia – 1pm CT on MLS Live
- Visitors Columbus must draw or beat New England – 6:30pm CT on MLS Live
- Fire must defeat Toronto FC – 7:30pm CT on My50/Time Warner Sports Wisconsin
Two other games the Fire are depending on but you could feel reasonable about both needed results as Montreal is due a win and Columbus still has a shadow of a chance to qualify for the playoffs if they win both of their remaining games.
- PLAYOFF MATH: Fire on the brink of postseason berth
Keep your fingers crossed, tonight could be a special one at Toyota Park.
Record through first 10 and playoff qualification
Part of the reason tonight could be special is because of where this Fire team was through their first 10 games this season. Sitting 2-7-1 on May 24, even a mention of the playoffs would have heard a chuckle as the team had trouble scoring goals (just six in their first 10) and defensive lapses saw them drop points they should have picked up.
Back to Chicago come Bakary Soumare and Mike Magee, Quincy Amarikwa comes flying through with huge goal at Real Salt Lake, a switch in the midfield pairs Jeff Larentowicz and Alex together, an Open Cup run gives the Fire continued hope through the middle of the season and the arrivals of Juan Luis Anangono and Arevalo Rios all contribute to an 11-5-5 record since June 1, making the Fire the hottest team in MLS in that time span.
- LARENTOWICZ: Despite slow start, "we never counted ourselves out"
What am I getting at?
If the Fire clinch a postseason berth tonight, it’ll mark one of the most incredible season turnarounds in MLS history.
Here’s why: In the post-shootout era (2000-present), only one team has had a worse start through their first 10 games and still qualified for the MLS Cup playoffs. That was the 2011 Sporting KC side who earned just six points (1-6-3) through their first 10 matches, all of which were played on the road while Sporting Park was being completed.
Going back all-time the 1998 (expansion) Miami Fusion had just five points through their first 10 matches before qualifying while the Fire’s seven points would equal that of the 1997 LA Galaxy and 1998 and 2005 Colorado Rapids sides.
Why are they wearing PINK?
As the Fire have in October the past few years, the team will raise breast cancer awareness by wearing commemorative jerseys featuring pink numbering and lettering for tonight’s match.
Every player’s jersey is being auctioned off through the end of halftime, with proceeds benefitting the Chicago Fire Foundation.
How to bid? Visit the Foundation Tent on the Northeast Concourse tonight, text “AUCTION” to 52182 or simply click here and bid online.
SPOTLIGHT: Jalil Anibaba
Jalil Anibaba’s beautiful strike in last week’s win over FC Dallas didn’t win MLS Goal of the Week (though it should have). At the very least, the strike has seen people talk up the third-year Fire veteran this week, leading up to his 25th birthday today! (#HappyBirthdayJalil!)
One of only three MLS players to play every minute of every game this season (one of the other’s is Austin Berry), Anibaba has certainly achieved ironman status and had great things to say about his first three years with the Fire in this feature from Anthony Zilis and this week’s All-In Podcast.
The stakes don’t get higher than this. Even if one of the earlier two results doesn’t go the Fire’s way, tonight still represents a great chance for the team to clinch a playoff spot next weekend at New York.
With Standing Room Only tickets available now, a strong crowd is expected to fill Toyota Park and Frank Klopas has made a direct appeal to all Fire fans to end the tailgating earlier than normal and get in to support the team from the moment they walk out for warm ups.
Get in. Get three points. GO FIRE.