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updated: 9/8/2011 10:08 AM

Thanks to wins, MLS playoffs possible for Fire

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  • Chicago Fire midfielder Logan Pause, here challenging Los Angeles Galaxy's David Beckham, says the recent win streak has changed the team's mood in the locker room and on the practice field. "Things are starting to click," Pause said.

      Chicago Fire midfielder Logan Pause, here challenging Los Angeles Galaxy's David Beckham, says the recent win streak has changed the team's mood in the locker room and on the practice field. "Things are starting to click," Pause said.
    Associated Press


The Fire heads into the final six weeks of the MLS regular season with eight league games to play, plus next week's friendly against Chivas del Guadalajara and the Oct. 4 U.S. Open Cup final at Seattle.

With 27 points in the standings, the Fire is 5 behind the New York Red Bulls, who own the 10th and final MLS playoff spot. Three teams sit between the Fire and the Red Bulls, also chasing that final spot: Portland, Chivas USA and D.C. United.

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San Jose, which the Fire visits Saturday, is a point behind, with Chivas USA coming to Toyota Park the following Saturday.

"We still see it as a mountain to climb, though," veteran defender Cory Gibbs said after training Wednesday. "New York, they have a lot of talent, so we can't expect them not to get points coming up to this stretch, so we just have to put our trust in ourselves and each other and take one game at a time and just get as many points as possible."

Here are three things the Fire needs to do to finish the season:

Keep the lineup intact:

The Fire has seen plenty of changes to its First XI all season, especially the first couple of months under then-coach Carlos de los Cobos. Now that it has won two consecutive league games, plus its Open Cup semifinal, the team will try to stick with what's working.

The Fire, however, will break this rule at San Jose because left back Gonzalo Segares will serve a yellow-card suspension. Not even interim coach/technical director Frank Klopas seems to know yet how the Fire will fill Segares' spot.

"We have some different options," Klopas said. "We can put (Dan) Gargan on the left side. We can put Cory (there). He played with the national team on the left side when he grew up. ... You can put Logan (Pause) at right back and put Gargan on that side. You can put Jalil (Anibaba) at right back. So we do have options. We just have to work out the different scenarios throughout the week and just got to see what's the best for us for that game."

Even more from new guys:

This might seem like an individual thing, but the Fire has seen success since the two newcomers, Sebastian Grazzini and Pavel Pardo, hit the pitch last month, and they have combined for 3 goals and 5 assists.

One beneficiary of those assists has been forward Dominic Oduro, who is having a career year and has a chance to be the first Fire player since 2004 to score in double digits.

Have fun:

"When you start to win, that changes everything," the always-positive Pavel Pardo said.

Anyone hanging around Toyota Park lately can hear the difference, in the postgame locker room and on the training field, since the team got a couple of wins. Fire players are laughing and having fun again, pulling pranks on each other just like middle-schoolers.

That's a good thing.

"That's what winning does to you," captain Logan Pause said. "It's hard when you lose. You try to do what you can to stay positive, move things forward, but the ties, the ties, the ties, the losses -- I think at one point we had two wins in 24 games -- you do everything you can to try to continue move things forward, but you guys see it. It's hard. It's hard.

"Now that we've had some success in the last couple of games, things are starting to click, and I think we're now seeing and reaping the benefits of all that hard work. When you see it, it's so much more rewarding because when you can't it's just grinding and grinding and grinding and putting in the hard work. It's hard sometimes for guys to buy in when they're not seeing that it's working."

Nothing would be more fun for the Fire than winning several games and sneaking into the playoffs.

• Follow Orrin's soccer reports on Twitter @orrinsoccer.

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